US: Bergen's Greenhouse gets a winter's worth of heat thanks to 600-ton donation

Dynamic Homes donated about 625 tons of scrap wood to Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes to be used to partially heat their facility through the winter. The greenhouse's two-story biomass boiler uses about 30,000 pounds of finely graded wood chips per day to heat about four acres of coverage area in the 12-acre facility, of which temperature control plays a crucial role as the garden giant ships thousands of poinsettias during the holiday season.

Bergen's primarily uses two natural gas boilers, but the biomass boiler is always called upon to deliver much-needed climate control during the cold winter months, said Justin Sieve, chief boiler operator for the greenhouse.

"Everything in here is perishable, so if it can't maintain the temperature it needs for the plants, they can ultimately die," said Sieve. "Or we can lose our infrastructure due to freezing damage to all the hot water pipes that are in the floor and overhead."

The boilers at the greenhouse heat up to 100,000 gallons of water, he said, and use an intricate piping system that transports the hot water throughout the facility and creates heat for the growing plants — which in the winter is thousands of poinsettias.

"There's about equal floor heat and equal overhead heat," said Sieve. "Most commercial buildings have one or the other, we have to run both just because of the lack of R-value in the evening." 

He added, even in the winter, during the daylight hours the greenhouse maintains temperature pretty well on its own, but, as soon as the sun sets, the greenhouse loses its reflecting power source and the boilers click on to provide the needed heat.

"It can be 20 degrees below zero in February, if it's sunny out, the vents are trying to open because it's too warm in here," said Sieve. "It's absolutely amazing how much power the sun has, but at 5 o'clock, when the sun goes down, it's the exact opposite. You lose everything you gained during the day and you're trying to make up for it."

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