Published 01/11/2012

'Tis the Season for Savings

Here's a quick review of greenhouse energy curtains, which for nearly 40 years have been widely recognized as the most effective means of reducing greenhouse energy expenses.

Any fan of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” knows that the motto of House Stark, the family who rules the North region, is, “Winter is coming.” The threat is as chilling as it sounds. The first cool days of autumn always remind me to look into the update of the Department of Energy’s Outlook report for an indication of fuel prices and expenditures, which consider anticipated weather for the upcoming season.

Energy expenses are among the highest expenses for greenhouse operators and become a top concern as our days begin to shorten. With technological advances in drilling in shale, natural gas supply will be in abundance, which will keep the prices relatively low. Although newer demands, such as the use of natural gas to offset coal for the generation of electrical power, will continue, it’s expected that natural gas prices will be low for some years to come.

If you have the ability to lock in prices for an extended period, it’s probably a great idea to do so. With spot prices for natural gas around $3.00 per million BTU for the commodity, they’re less than half the price of just a few winters back. Growers in some regions aren’t fortunate enough to have access to a natural gas pipeline. For comparison’s sake, propane prices are around $13.00 per million BTU, and No. 2 heating oil is around $24.00. (Keep in mind that equipment and distribution efficiencies should be noted when comparing fuel prices.)


Still, prices for natural gas should be relatively stable for some years to come, so investments in gaining access to natural gas should receive some attention.

Likewise, energy efficiency efforts, including the consideration of heat retention curtains, should be a top priority for growers who are heating with propane or oil...

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