These Tomatoes Are Helping to Improve the Environment

In California, an almost 100-percent energy-efficient tomato greenhouse is about to go online, thanks to the addition of a plant that provides heat, electricity, and valuable carbon dioxide gas.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

California tomato grower Casey Houweling is the first American to install a combined heat and power generation plant that will make his 150-acre greenhouse almost completely energy-efficient. The plant will use natural gas to keep the greenhouse warm, and the extra electricity it generates will be sold into the local power grid. Most notably, it will feed carbon dioxide gas, a waste product, directly into the greenhouse. The use of this gas helps increase plant growth and improve the tomatoes' flavor.

What's the Big Idea?

The power industry has long tried different approaches to reducing atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide gas. For Houweling, having a plant that recycles the gas means he no longer has to purchase it from an outside supplier. Additional adaptations, including rainwater capture and solar panels, save even more energy. Greenhouse-based farming also uses much less land. Scott Nolen of General Electric -- which built the plant's two engines -- says the modified greenhouse allows Houweling to "grow as much food on 150 acres as his neighbor on 5500 acres."

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