Giant low carbon greenhouses could grow 12% of UK tomatoes

1 in 10 of the UK’s tomatoes may soon be grown in greenhouses warmed by waste heat, with the potential to significantly reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.

The UK’s largest clean energy investor has announced plans to construct two of the country’s largest greenhouses, covering the size of 47 football pitches. In a ‘world first’, these will be warmed by residual heat from nearby water recycling centres owned by Anglian Water.

Greencoat Capital says the £120m project will reduce the carbon footprint of food produce by 75% compared to European equivalents, and increase UK food security.

Closed loop heat pumps will be used to transfer the heat from the water recycling centres to the greenhouses, and will have the additional benefit of cooling the facility’s treated water outflow before it is returned to the environment.

Electricity for the greenhouse’s heat pumps will be provided by a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant, with waste heat from the CHP providing further warmth for the greenhouses. The gas-fired CHP plant’s carbon emissions will be transferred into the greenhouses, raising the CO2 levels and further accelerating the growth of the plants, and capturing the majority of the carbon.

The construction phase of the project will begin immediately, with completion expected in autumn 2020. Commercial-scale growers from the UK and the Netherlands have already committed to leasing the space.

The greenhouses will provide ideal growing conditions for a range of plants and vegetables requiring a high-heat, and relatively low-light environments such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Once operational, the greenhouses will be capable of producing more than 1 in 10 of the country’s tomatoes, and will create 360 permanent new jobs.