Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trip to Westland

July 6, 2011
Our trip today shifted our focus from transportation engineering to other innovative Dutch engineering applications such as water resources, thermodynamics, mechanical, and industrial engineering.
Peit Opstal was our tour guide for the day.

Our first stop was to a planned calamity water storage system. If a storm surge dumps a large amount of water onto the Netherlands that cannot be managed by its extensive canal system, the excess water will be mediated and will be held at this site. It is only for emergencies and is currently a farm field. This area can hold up to 500 million liters of water. At this point, the canal system in the Netherlands is at its highest point. The average high tide reading is at 44 centimeters below sea level.

Highest Canal

The calamity water storage area

The Dutch are leaders in the business of growing plants in greenhouses. In Westland, Netherlands stands the single largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. There are over 10,000 hectares (25,500 acres) of greenhouses in the Netherlands. The production value for last year was 5.5 billion euros. The industry employs over 70,000 people.
The greenhouse industry in the Netherlands generates 8% of the country’s electricity and 11% of gases are consumed within the greenhouse facilities.  A greenhouse needs the least amount of energy or heat in the middle of the day. The greenhouse industry power generation is sold back to the grid when peak energy prices are higher, during the day. They use their own energy to light and heat the greenhouses during non-daylight hours.
The greenhouses can also use CO2 to improve plant growth.  Shell Oil is producing CO2 in its oil and natural gas production nearby and is piping it to the greenhouses.
Westland Region Greenhouses

Our next stop was in the town of De Lier, where we visited Priva, a company that specializes in sustainable greenhouse systems. Wim Decker gave us tour and lecture about the work that Priva does. Decker has worked for Prima since 1971 and his current work is in specialized greenhouse systems.
Priva Headquarters and Explanation of Ecofriendly Features of their Buildiing by Wim Decker

The role of Priva is to improve the efficiency of greenhouses and greenhouse technology. They develop greenhouse systems that use the generated energy and other byproducts and direct it into useful byproducts. They design closed greenhouse technology that captures the energy created by the sun. They also have systems that capture and recycle the water that transpires from the plants and the excess water that the plants do not take in during watering. They also design systems that capture energy from biomass.
Priva’s horticulture division headquarters building demonstrates the type of sustainable technology concepts that they develop. This building is CO2 neutral. It uses only electricity for lights and electric systems such as computers and pumps. As part of their climate control system they store hot and cold water deep in the ground in cold and hot wells. The hot water is generated through heat exchangers in in the ceiling of the building, collecting the heat produced by solar radiation. They use a heat pump system to store the cold water in the summer and the hot water in the winter. The clay and sand tanks hold 500,000 cubic meters of water.
Details of the Priva Building

Priva has 350 employees. 60% of them bike to work. Between company and government cycling incentives, employees that bike to work can purchase a new bike every 3 years. It seems like a great company to work for if you are interested in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and environmental engineering.

Our next stop was in a small town near Westland for a lunch break. Raw herring with onions is the specialty here.


Next we visited Campanula, a greenhouse facility in Westland. It is a family owned business that started 90 years ago. Robert ten Have, the latest family member to run the company, gave us the tour of the facility. Campanula specializes in potted plants. An average of 25,000 plants is shipped out each day. As with most greenhouse growing operations, they expanded their business by taking over neighboring greenhouses. In the last 25 years they have grown to 40,000 Square meters.  There are usually 2 million plants in production every day. They have 10 full time and 20 part time employees.
Robert ten Have at Campanula

So how do they keep track of so many plants? Lots of automation.  Every plant sits on a specialized tray with a computer chip that records their movement and plant growth. Videos keep track of how many blossoms are on each plant. Watering and fertilizer are also monitored. The computer system and automation allows the buyer to make detailed orders such as picking the number of flowers on each of the plants ordered.

 Campanula Greenhouses

Climate control is very important in greenhouses. To protect the plants from overheating in the summer, calcium is sprayed onto the greenhouse.  The calcium on the greenhouses creates shade and protects the plants from overheating. When the weather cools down the calcium can be cleaned off of the greenhouse glass. In the winter, heat is supplied through hot water pipes that run about a meter above the plants. The ideal amount of light for the plants is 16 hours a day. As the daylight shortens, energy efficient grow lights make up the difference.
Hot water Holding Tank at  Campanula
Power and heated water are generated by a large gasoline engine. The heated water is stored in a large insulated tank and is then run through the pipes in the greenhouse in the evening. The power generated during the daytime hours is more than is needed for the greenhouse facility and is sold to the power company during typical peak hours for other industries, in the middle of the day. This is part of the 8% that the greenhouse industry generates for the country, which was described above.

Our last stop before heading home was the beach town of Monster for a dip in the North Sea.
The North Sea

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