Kingston, Ont. – Researchers at Queen’s University are looking into an innovative way to help protect food prices from rising fuel costs.
By harnessing waste heat produced by Canada’s industrial plants, producers could heat greenhouses for growing fresh fruit and vegetables.
The researchers also say necessary measures for ensuring the cleanliness of the heat and carbon dioxide emissions for greenhouse use also has the potential to reduce the cost of industries’ emissions compliance for future legislation.
Joshua Pearce, a mechanical and materials engineering professor and an expert in renewable energy, and Rob Andrews, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, examined the quality of the waste heat from several thermal plants.
While the temperature of waste heat thrown out by thermal plants is too cool for many alternative types of energy generation, it can provide the large amounts of low-level heat required by greenhouses.
Carbon dioxide is useful too
In addition, the waste carbon dioxide produced in the thermal process can be used to feed greenhouse plants to help them grow faster.
By investing in post-treatment options to ensure the waste heat is clean for use in greenhouses, companies can increase their revenue streams by branching out into complementary businesses, such as food production.
The researchers say the idea of co-production facilities – thermal production plants that use their waste heat to power greenhouses – is a relatively common practice in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, but remains unusual in North America.