Quebec greenhouse fires up biomass heating system

By Lisa Gibson | November 22, 2011

A large greenhouse in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Châteauguay, Quebec, unveiled on Nov. 18 its new biomass heating system, complete with a 2-kilometer (1.24-mile) hot water distribution network for its 6.5 hectares (16 acres).

Les Serres Lefort Inc. is a specialty greenhouse dedicated to the production of seedlings delivered to 250 vegetable growers in Quebec. With the help of consulting firm Jean Gobeil & Associés and boiler manufacturer Compte-Fournier Inc., Les Serres Lefort fired up its forest biomass heating system, including two 6-megawatt boilers, in October.

“All greenhouse farmers know that in greenhouse production, energy is one of the major costs we face,” said Sylvain Lefort, owner of Les Serres Lefort. “Since 2008, the continuous price increase in fossil fuels meant that our propane heating system was generating additional expenses. I therefore started to look for alternatives such as forestry biomass. Today, I am extremely proud to say that Les Serres Lefort Inc. has gone green. Our brand new biomass heating system will decrease our environmental footprint while supporting us in our mission to offer top quality products that meet the expectations of our clients in terms of pricing and profitability.”

The $7.8 million system is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12,757 metric tons (14,062 tons) per year and received $5 million from Quebec’s energy efficiency program. The facility will use about 10,000 metric tons of wood chips sourced locally to begin with, increasing to about 18,000 tons after a planned greenhouse expansion, according to Martin Richard, business development and technical manager for Compte-Fournier.

“The client and his consultant, Jean Gobeil & Associés, have signed a long-term agreement with a wood chip platform in order to be supplied with about half of the annual volume required, thus granting themselves some freedom to use different sources of biomass as feedstock based on opportunities,” Richard said.

He added that the system is solely producing heat. “Given the low cost of electricity in Quebec, cogeneration was not considered, as the costs are typically really high for such mid-sized equipments,” he said.