A £120 million project to construct two giant greenhouses in the UK is on track for the testing and commissioning phase to begin this autumn.
Place Farm. Courtesy of Step Associates
The two giant low-carbon greenhouses have used more glass than The Shard and will use the largest heat pump system project in the UK. Each greenhouse is one-and-a-half times the size of the O2 in London.
This world-first development, project managed by Step Associates, has been built next to Anglian Water’s water treatment facilities, where the heat from the sewage works will be pumped into the energy centres serving the greenhouses providing the ideal growing temperature for millions of tomatoes, representing 10 percent of the UK’s homegrown tomato crop, along with peppers and cucumbers.
“The scheme is using the UK’s largest system of heat pumps, which will channel heat from warm water into the greenhouses to help speed growth” said Mark Dykes, Director at Step Associates. “This use of natural energy will cut carbon emissions associated with growing the tomato crop by 75 percent. This project has been a long and rewarding journey. The greenhouses, being a world-first in their use of renewable energy, have positioned the UK as leading the way in a low carbon solution to growing sustainably, and will hopefully pave the way for similar projects.”
The carbon emissions from an on-site electricity plant will also be funnelled into the greenhouses for the plants to absorb and aid their growth.
Greencoat Capital, one of the UK’s largest clean energy funds, is behind the plans and estimates that the greenhouses will produce vegetables with a quarter of the carbon footprint of regular greenhouses.
The greenhouses, which are set to start growing this winter, are 7-metre tall glass structures and will allow crops to grow vertically along guide wires. They will be grown hydroponically from nutrient-rich water solutions instead of using soil.
As well as providing the UK with homegrown tomatoes, the project will also create up to 360 permanent jobs in the area, and up to 460 at peak season.