Chile tests geothermal greenhouse

September 10 , 2013

Chile’s Agrarian Innovation Foundation (FIA) is piloting what it describes as the first horticultural greenhouse run on geothermal energy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The project, launched outside of Santiago in Lampa, seeks to improve yield and decrease low-temperature loses while minimizing energy input and keeping costs low.

To start off, the initiative will work with arugula, watercress and mint to explore the use of geothermal heat pumps to optimize temperature control.

Currently in Chile, this type of energy technology is only used for residential power and in certain industrial contexts, the FIA said.

As a non-conventional renewable energy, geothermal energy is considered a middle-of-the-road option in terms of efficiency. Although a major part of its energy comes from the sun, it does consume electricity to function.

In the system under testing, the use of geothermal energy could reduce energy costs by 50%, the FIA estimated.

Coordinator Adbo Fernández explained that the system utilizes water pumps to warm up the greenhouses through a heating system. This prevents temperatures in the greenhouse from reaching produce-damaging levels.

Initiative supervisor Rodolfo Cortés reflected on the potential to achieve higher production with a lower carbon footprint.

“In addition to lower energy costs, you get better product quality, since the plant is in more comfortable conditions to develop itself. This could allow for earlier production, which added to the previously mentioned, could create better prices for farmers,” Cortés said.

“Something that interests us a lot is that this is project that could be replicated in other areas of the country, especially in the south.”

The project is expected to cost US$136,000, of which US$109,000 will come from FIA. Other collaborating partners include the Ministry of Agriculture and agri-business Sergio Aguilar.

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