Greenhouse Energy Conservation Strategies and Alternative Fuels

Final Report for ENC07-098

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2007: $33,432.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Scott Sanford
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Project Information

Abstract:

The project developed presentation materials, articles and fact sheets on greenhouse energy conservation and alternative fuels for heating greenhouses. A workshop for high school Ag instructors and two webinar was attended by 42 participants from 6 different states. Subsequent programs have reached 64 additional people. The first presentations covered all aspects of greenhouse energy efficiency, the second presentation looked at thermal/shade curtain systems, the third presentation looks at energy efficient plant production methods and the fourth presentation covered heating greenhouses with biomass fuel sources The presentation materials, presentation narrative, webinar recording and publications are available on-line.

Project Objectives:

1) PowerPoint presentations with speaker notes for topics related to greenhouse energy use.

2) Extension bulletins
- Thermal/Shade curtains
- Greenhouse energy conservation strategies
- Plant production methods that reduce energy use
- Biomass Energy for heating greenhouses

3) Greenhouse Energy model – Excel spreadsheet

4) Make curriculum materials available on the WI EERE web site.

5) Resource list of additional information.

6) Two “Train the Trainer” workshops with 25+ educators attending.

Introduction:

Greenhouse heating expenses have increased by 30% to 50% since 2003 while retail prices for plants have remained flat, putting a squeeze on profits. Energy is the third largest cost in most greenhouse facilities behind plant materials and labor. Many agricultural educators are well versed in greenhouse plant production issues, but lack knowledge about energy conservation strategies and alternative energy sources for greenhouse growers. Many growers are looking for options to reduce their energy costs but they don’t always understand which options will provide the greatest return on investment. There is a lack of materials that cover these topics. Curriculum materials, extension bulletins, resource lists and a greenhouse energy model were developed with the intention that educators can use the materials in full or part to deliver programming on energy management and conservation for greenhouse production. A workshop and eight webinars were held to present the curriculum materials and provide in-service training for extension agents, vocational agriculture teachers and other educators.

Program outcomes include increasing the knowledge based of educator, increase the number of educators providing workshops or including content on greenhouse energy efficiency in programming.

A survey of workshop participants at the end of the year 3 showed 64 additional people had been trained using the materials developed and plans to use material in the future. All of the curriculum materials are available on the Wisconsin Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (WI EERE) web site for easy access to educators and the public. The long-term goal is for growers to increase the use of energy efficient equipment and structures and to adopt energy efficient growing practices.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Douglas Reinemann
  • Erik Runkle

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Four new publications and a revision of an existing UW-Extension publication were published under this grant. They are all available at no-cost to download at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Energy-Conservation-C29.aspx

University of Wisconsin Extension bulletins
- “Greenhouse Energy Efficiency”, Scott Sanford, A3907-01
- “Using Curtains to Reduce Heating and Cooling Costs in Greenhouses", Scott Sanford, A3907-02
- “Greenhouse Unit Heaters: Types, Placement, and Efficiency”, Scott Sanford, A3907-03 (revision of previously published bulletin)
- “Biomass Energy for Heating Greenhouses”, Scott Sanford, A3907-04
- “Biomass Heating in Greenhouses: Case Studies”, Scott Sanford, A3907-05

Magazine Articles
- Energy Efficient Annuals Series, Erik Runkle, Greenhouse Grower
Accessible at: http://www.uwex.edu/energy/gh_PRES.html

Other Outreach
Article: “Reducing energy use for greenhouse heating”, Scott Sanford, Greenhouse Management & production Magazine, August 2008 - Article discussed ten key areas where greenhouse energy use could be reduced. Circulation 21,000.

Article: “Choosing the Best Biomass Heating Option”. Scott Sanford, Greenhouse Management & production Magazine, November 2009 - Article discussed options for using biomass for heating a greenhouse.

Presentation for Indiana Extension Agent Mike Ferree - Greenhouse energy efficiency presentation for his “Grow 4 Market” program on Feb 18, 2010.

Erik Runkle and his graduate student Matt Blanchard have written many articles on energy efficient production methods that have compiled to articles at http://www.hrt.msu.edu/Energy/Notebook.htm.

“Manipulating Light in the Greenhouse”, Matthew Blanchard & Erik Runkle, Greenhouse Management and Production, June 2009 – The article looked at research on using intermittent lighting to initiate flowering versus continuous lighting.

Energy Efficient Annuals Series, Matthew Blanchard & Erik Runkle and others, 9 articles appeared in Greenhouse Grower Magazine from March 2009 to November 2009 – Articles focus on different annual investigating the affects of supplemental lighting and greenhouse temperature.

“Energy-efficient poinsettia production”, Erik Runkle and Jim Faust; Greenhouse Product News, August 2008.

“Installing infrared polyethylene film to save energy”, Erik Runkle; Greenhouse Product News, July 2008.

Outcomes and impacts:
Evaluations

The workshops and webinars were attended by 42 participants from 6 different states. The post webinar evaluations ratings ranged from 4.3 to 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent. The follow-up evaluation in November 2010 found that subsequent programming reached 64 additional people base on responses from 16 attendees.

There were 57 persons who registered for at least one webinar and 35 who attended at least one webinar. Of the 35 who attended 17 attended one session, 9 attended two, 4 attended three and 5 attend all four webinar sessions. Of those who registered for the webinars, 21 work for extension, 4 were high school teachers, 9 were growers, 4 were government types, 6 work for non-profits and 13 were classified as university specialist or instructors. Registered participants came from 8 states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Illinois and Maine. The make up of the folks who participated in the live webinar were 15 extension agents, 2 high school instructors, 4 growers, 2 government types, 4 non-profits, and 7 university specialists or instructors from the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, and Maine. The webinars were recorded so any registered participant could listen to the webinar when time was convenient although no one who responded returned an evaluation indicated that they had not attended the webinar but had listened to the recording. In the final survey 56% of the respondents indicated that hey had used the recordings.

After each webinar an evaluation was sent by email to everyone who registered and was asked to return them to one of our department support persons for summary so as a presenter I didn’t know who sent the evaluation in. Appendix A is a copy of an evaluation emailed after one of the webinars. In late November 2010 an on-line survey using Zoomerang was sent to all those who registered for a webinar or attended the WAAE PD workshop to evaluate if the materials were useful and were being used. Appendix B is a list of the questions in the final survey.

The following is the results of the surveys for the different webinar topics. The evaluation results were combined for each of the two webinars presented on each topic. No evaluations were return for either of Eric Runkle’s presentation on Energy-efficient production methods.

Greenhouse Energy Conservation Jan 7 and March 30
1) Did you participate in the webinar?
a. Yes - 11
b. No – 1
c. If no, did you view the recording of the webinar? 1
Following question are rated on a scale: 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
2) Did you feel the webinar was well organized? - 4.16
3) Did the slides aid in the understanding of the material? - 4.58
4) Were the presenter's explanations of the materials organized and clear? – 4.36
5) Was the voice quality of the audio acceptable? – 3.83
6) Did the presentation increase your understanding of the options for reducing greenhouse energy usage?
a. Substantially - 4
b. Somewhat - 8
c. Very Little
d. None
7) How would you rate to PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Substantially - 4
b. Somewhat - 4
c. Very Little - 2
d. None
8) How will you use the PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Won’t Use - 3
b. Use as presented without modification - 4
c. With slight content modifications - 0
d. Use portions of content in other presentations - 4
9) How will you use the information learned and the presentation materials?
a. Won’t use - 0
b. Use to increase the energy efficiency of my own/school's greenhouse - 4
c. Will incorporate into an existing course or program - 4
d. Will use materials to put on a local program for growers - 2
e. Use for one-on-one assistance with growers - 4
f. Increased personal knowledge but will rely on others for programming support - 4
10) How would you rate the overall program? Rating 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
a. 4.33

Thermal Shade Curtain Systems
1) Did you participate in the webinar?
a. Yes - 6

b. No – 0
Following question are rated on a scale: 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
2) Did you feel the webinar was well organized? - 4.5
3) Did the slides aid in the understanding of the material? – 4.33
4) Were the presenter's explanations of the materials organized and clear? – 4.5
5) Was the voice quality of the audio acceptable? – 4.16
6) Did the presentation increase your understanding of the options for reducing greenhouse energy usage?
a. Substantially – 3
b. Somewhat – 3
c. Very Little
d. None
7) How would you rate to PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Substantially – 2
b. Somewhat – 4
c. Very Little
d. None
8) How will you use the PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Won’t Use
b. Use as presented without modification -1
c. With slight content modifications
d. Use portions of content in other presentations - 4
9) How will you use the information learned and the presentation materials?
a. Won’t use -
b. Use to increase the energy efficiency of my own/school's greenhouse
c. Will incorporate into an existing course or program - 3
d. Will use materials to put on a local program for growers
e. Use for one-on-one assistance with growers - 2
f. Increased personal knowledge but will rely on others for programming support - 1
10) How would you rate the overall program? Rating 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
a. 4.67

Biomass Greenhouse heating
1) Did you participate in the webinar?
a. Yes - 6
b. No – 1
c. If no, did you view the recording of the webinar? 1
Following question are rated on a scale: 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
2) Did you feel the webinar was well organized? - 4.57
3) Did the slides aid in the understanding of the material? – 4.71
4) Were the presenter's explanations of the materials organized and clear? – 4.71
5) Was the voice quality of the audio acceptable? – 3.71
6) Did the presentation increase your understanding of the options for reducing greenhouse energy usage?
a. Substantially – 1
b. Somewhat – 5
c. Very Little
d. None
7) How would you rate to PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Substantially – 5
b. Somewhat – 2
c. Very Little
d. None
8) How will you use the PowerPoint Presentation?
a. Won’t Use -2
b. Use as presented without modification - 0
c. With slight content modifications - 0
d. Use portions of content in other presentations - 5
9) How will you use the information learned and the presentation materials?
a. Won’t use -
b. Use to increase the energy efficiency of my own/school's greenhouse -1
c. Will incorporate into an existing course or program - 4
d. Will use materials to put on a local program for growers - 1
e. Use for one-on-one assistance with growers - 2
f. Increased personal knowledge but will rely on others for programming support
10) How would you rate the overall program? Rating 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
a. 4.71

Generally, the webinars were well received despite the lower than expected attendance. We had one person who had problems connecting to both the phone and internet connection on the first webinar so we added the ability to receive the audio via the internet to correct the problem and supplied an 800 number phone connection. The audio quality received the lowest ratings. I’m not sure if the cause was because neither presenter has a natural “radio” voice or there was a sound quality issue.

Final Evaluation results:
There were 21 visits to the survey and 16 answered the survey. The questions and results:

1) Did you attend any of the webinars or workshop?
a. Yes – 14 (88%)
b. No but listened to the recordings – 0
c. No – 2 (12%)
2) Which webinars did you participate in?
a. Greenhouse Energy conservation – 10 (62%)
b. Greenhouse Thermal/Shade Curtains – 9 (56%)
c. Energy-Efficency in Greenhouse Crop Production – 8 (50%)
d. Alternative Fuels for Heating Greenhouses – 8 (50%)
e. WAAE Workshop – 3 (19%)
f. None – 1 (6%)
3) If you attended a Webinar, did others beside yourself listen in at your location?
a. 3 sites had 4 additional people listening on the webinar who were not registered
4) What is your vocation?
a. Extension Agent – 5 (31%)
b. State specialist/university researcher/staff – 1 (6%)
c. High school instructor – 3 (19%)
d. College educator – 2 (12%)
e. Commercial grower – 0
f. Hobbyist – 1 (6%)
g. Other – 4 (25%) Student; person working on a project to get a greenhouse installed at a high school; private individual; hobbyist leaning towards future education in horticulture
5) Did you use/view any of the recordings of the webinar?
a. Yes – 9 (56%)
b. No – 7 (44%)
6) Did you find the information provided useful for your educational programs
Ratings: 1 - not useful to 5 - Extremely useful; N/A column
a. Webinar or workshops – 3.6
b. PowerPoint Presentations – 3.5
c. Speaker notes for presentations – 3.5
d. References – 3.1
e. Presentation recordings – 3.0
7) How have you used the information since the workshop/webinar?
a. Planning or Improved the energy utilization of my greenhouse – 4 (25%)
b. Used some content in an existing educational program – 8 (50%)
c. Developed a new educational program based on the materials provided - 0
d. Used the materials as provided for workshop – 1 (6%)
e. Not used - 0
f. Other, Please specify – 2 (12%)
i. Will aid in designing a school greenhouse
ii. Provided materials to others
8) If you used content in an educational program, how many people did you reach?
a. 25, 5, 20, 12, 2
9) Was the webinar format acceptable for this type of program?
a. Yes – 13 (93%)
b. No – 0
c. Other – 1 (wasn’t able to log in)
10) What suggestion do you have for improving this program?
a. Specify the time zone on the announcement
b. Web based programs need to be visually stimulating and the speaker's presentation needs to be as interactive as possible. Without a live speaker in the room and only a screen to look at there needs to good quality pictures, diagrams, videos etc. Anything the presenter can do to highlight or curser to some points of interest the better. Audio connections can be delayed or grabbled depending on the local connection. Having a box to type in questions is very helpful if the open mic is not an option.
c. Cover more key energy savings maybe a little to broad
d. More user friendly.
e. Make it available on a website for anyone to access at anytime.
11) Should more programs be developed in this type of format?
a. Yes – 15 (100%)
b. No - 0
12) Suggested topics
a. Crop scheduling
b. Organic pest management in greenhouses
c. Post carbon energy options
d. Anything related to human resources (ways to improve employee/employee relationships, employee training (dealing with customers, proper cultural practices for greenhouse plants, pest management.
e. Given my biases I would suggest something about school greenhouses.
f. Green house selection
g. Utilizing solar power for greenhouses or using solar water systems for heating greenhouses.
h. Organic Gardening for home use and for profit, both in and out of a greenhouse environment.

This project was delay in implementing the webinars due to a scheduling conflict with another project resulting in the delay of getting the webinars delivered so there was less time between the presentations and the final survey which likely affected the number of people impacted by the people we trained. The presentation usefulness has dropped to 3.0 to 3.6 from 4.3 to 4.7 immediately after the presentation. We plan to use the program again for a regional SARE PDP grant on energy efficiency training during the spring/summer of 2011.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

1) Develop PowerPoint presentations with speaker notes on greenhouse energy efficiency.

- Greenhouse Energy Conservation strategies – Developed by Scott Sanford
Covers all aspects of greenhouse energy efficiency including glazing materials, heaters and boilers, infiltration heat loss, perimeter and wall insulation, environmental controls, heat distribution, thermal/shade curtains, space utilization, greenhouse orientation, structural efficiency, heater system maintenance, circulation and ventilation fans, and supplemental lighting. Passive solar greenhouse designs are also briefly covered.
- Thermal/Shade curtains – Developed by Scott Sanford
Looks at thermal/shade curtain systems in more detail, looking at the types of system layout, type of curtain materials, suspension systems, mechanical drive systems and methods for sealing the edges.
- Plant production methods that reduce energy use – Developed by Erik Runkle
Looks at energy efficient plant production methods which includes temperature profiles for different plants, lighting for optimal plant growth in the shortest time and photoperiod control to promote flowering.
- Biomass Heating of Greenhouses – Developed by Scott Sanford
Covers different types of fuel and equipment for heating greenhouses with alternative biomass fuel sources and presents two case studies for a large and small greenhouse. The case study explores different equipment options, the energy offset and the simple economic payback.

2) Publications

Four new publications and a revision of an existing UW-Extension publication were published under this grant. They are all available at no-cost to download at http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Energy-Conservation-C29.aspx

University of Wisconsin Extension bulletins
- "Greenhouse Energy Efficiency," Scott Sanford, A3907-01
- "Using Curtains to Reduce Heating and Cooling Costs in Greenhouses," Scott Sanford, A3907-02
- “Greenhouse Unit Heaters: Types, Placement, and Efficiency”, Scott Sanford, A3907-03 (revision of previously published bulletin)
- "Biomass Energy for Heating Greenhouses," Scott Sanford, A3907-04
- "Biomass Heating in Greenhouses: Case Studies," Scott Sanford, A3907-05

Magazine Articles
- Energy Efficient Annuals Series, Erik Runkle, Greenhouse Grower
Accessible at: http://www.uwex.edu/energy/gh_PRES.html

3) Greenhouse Energy model – Excel spreadsheet
- UW Greenhouse Energy Analyzer
Link to tool at http://www.uwex.edu/energy/greenhouses.html
This is a version of a program developed for the Wisconsin state energy efficiency program for auditing of greenhouses.

4) All curriculum materials are available on the WI EERE web site under Greenhouses / Presentations (http://www.uwex.edu/energy/AgEnergy.html ).
- All materials used in presentations, speaker notes, webinar recordings and links to extension publications are available at http://www.uwex.edu/energy/gh_PRES.html .

5) Resource list of additional information.
- A list of articles, bulletins and web sites is available at http://www.uwex.edu/energy/gh_PRES.html

6) Professional Development workshops
- Training workshop was held on July 1, 2009 in conjunction with the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators. Ten high school Ag teachers registered and seven attended the 3 hour workshop in Middleton, WI. Materials were also given to an eighth teacher who had a scheduling conflict.

- The face to face training sessions were changed to a webinar format because of travel restrictions for many extension agents in the region. The webinar is being held Jan 7, 12, 19 and 26, 2010 from 10 to 11:15 AM and were advertised through the extension network and SARE. The topics were as follows: Greenhouse energy conservation, Thermal Curtains, Biomass heating for greenhouses and Energy Efficient Production Methods with 24, 18, 12, and 12 persons registered for the webinars, respectively and 16, 10, 6 and 5 attending the webinar, respectively. We had many growers who wished to attend the first webinar series that I turned away because the grant was for educator’s professional development.
- A second Webinar series was held March 30, April 1, 6, and 8, 2010 from 3:30 to 4:45 PM. The second webinar series was open to growers and educators and was held in the late afternoon as an attempt to attract secondary school vocational Ag teachers. The topics were as follows: Greenhouse energy conservation, Thermal Curtains, Energy Efficient Production methods and Biomass heating for greenhouses with 25, 16, 14, and 11 persons registered for the webinars and 15, 11, 8 and 4 attending the webinar, respectively.

I was surprised at the low participation for the webinars after the first session in each series. I had hope that using the webinar format would have attracted a larger number of participants since no travel was involved. Overall we had 35 people attend at least one webinar session plus 7 high school instructors attend the in-person workshop training for a total of 42. We’d hoped to train about 50+ extension agents during two in-service workshops so we fell short. We had the most participation from Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Missouri and Minnesota, and one each from Kansas and Maine. The persons from Kansas and Maine were growers and not extension agents therefore we had 6 of the 10 states in the NC SARE region with no extension agent participation.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.