Storm damage won’t stop greenhouse grower’s plan for green energy

07/13/2010 10:17:49 AM
David Mitchell

Dennis Dick built his first greenhouse in 1991 and expanded four times in the next 11 years.

In one day, Pelee Hydroponics, Leamington, Ontario, was virtually wiped out.

“It looks like the tornado bounced right on my greenhouse,” said Dick, whose 6-acre operation was severely damaged in a June 6 storm.

Dick, who also is a partner in Seacliff Energy Inc., isn’t about to give up.

“We have too good of an opportunity,” he said.

Courtesy Pelee Hydroponics

An anaerobic digestion facility in Leamington, Ontario, will transform agricultural waste into clean energy and fertilizer. Seacliff Energy is building the facility near a Pelee Hydroponics greenhouse that was damaged by a June storm. Dennis Dick, owner of Pelee and a partner in Seacliff, says he hopes the digester will be producing electricity by the end of November.

Seacliff received a $1.6 million federal loan last year to construct a new facility adjacent to the Pelee greenhouse that will transform agricultural waste into clean energy and fertilizer. The energy company also received a provincial grant from Ontario.

Construction on the anaerobic digestion facility started in April. It also was damaged in the June storm but not as severely as the greenhouse.

“We were very fortunate,” Dick said June 15. “It will set us back a few weeks. We’ve got new parts, and we’re under way again.”

Dick said he hopes the digester will be making electricity by the end of November.

Pelee likely won’t have any waste to contribute to Seacliff by then.

Dick, whose organic tomatoes are marketed by Mastronardi Produce, Kingsville, Ontario, said he hopes to have his greenhouse repaired or rebuilt by Jan. 1.

“That’s a benchmark time for planting crops,” he said.

Though Pelee won’t have product — or waste — any time soon, Seacliff’s digester won’t sit idle. Dick expects other greenhouses, growers and processors in the area to dispose of their waste at the facility, which will require a per ton tipping fee.

He also hopes to sell fertilizer produced by the facility to area growers. Dick said the fertilizer initially will be for field-grown crops, but he said it likely will be certified organic and then could be appealing to the area’s numerous greenhouse growers.

Seacliff, of course, will also produce power. In phase one of the project, Dick estimates the digester will produce 1.6 megawatts, or enough to provide electricity for 1,200 homes. That figure is expected to double, Dick said, when the second phase is completed in January 2012.

Dick declined to comment on the total cost of construction or the potential revenue but said the facility will pay for itself within five years.

Gills Onions, Oxnard, Calif., has a similar facility that converts onion waste to power. The firm that designed that facility, Omaha Neb.-based HDR Engineering Inc., received the Grand Conceptor Award for that project earlier this year from the American Council of Engineering Companies.



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