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US: Cutting utility costs by 50% while co-generating electricity and hot water

“At Tecogen, we see CEA as a perfect fit for our products. It is a demanding application that requires constant cooling, dehumidification, and high uptime. Our products help cut utility costs in half in many cases and overcome electrical capacity constraints,” explains Abinand Rangesh, CEO at Tecogen.

The Tecogen team pictured at the Indoor AgCon 2023 with Abinand standing in the middle.

Tecogen has been in business for roughly 40 years and used to be a part of Thermo Electron, which has since become Thermo Fisher. When Tecogen spun out as a separate entity, the company focused on cogeneration production. As Abinand explains, Tecogen focuses on two main types of cogeneration: electrical cogeneration that generates electricity and hot water, as well as chillers that generate both chilled and hot water.

The company has a strong presence in healthcare facilities and other industries requiring very tight climate control. And so, the company’s expansion into controlled environment agriculture was a natural and obvious one. Whereas the cannabis industry typically controls both temperature and humidity by cooling the air below the dewpoint and then raising the temperature again, Abinand explains that Tecogen’s chillers are nearly twice as efficient as conventional systems since both hot and cold water are generated.

“With conventional systems, you generate chilled water and then need to fire a boiler to produce hot water. If you are buying electricity from the grid in the US, this really increases your carbon footprint as the grid is still predominantly fossil fuel-driven,” says Abinand.

Tecogen has installed its systems in multiple cannabis facilities and has recently added some indoor farms to their portfolio.

No downtime, no problem
While Tecogen equipment is usually sold through development partners, Tecogen itself handles all service contracts through its 11 service centers: 10 in the United States and 1 in Canada. With the need to have very high uptime, the comprehensive service contract covers all Tecogen equipment to ensure that growers do not skip a beat if their equipment requires servicing.

“It is best to have comprehensive maintenance from Day One to prevent downtime and subsequent losses in yield,” says Abinand.

Tecogen typically supplies cogeneration systems to large facilities, with a typical greenhouse client spanning no less than a few acres, as smaller-sized greenhouses are not as strongly driven by energy costs. In completely controlled environments such as vertical farms and cannabis facilities, the minimum canopy required is currently 10.000-20.000 square feet.

While Tecogen’s equipment comes at a capital cost premium, Abinand explains that the lifetime operating cost is roughly half that of competing products. US growers can get a 40% tax credit which significantly reduces the upfront cost.

Stay tuned: solutions coming for smaller facilities
The company does have a message for smaller facilities – stay tuned! Tecogen is currently working on products intended for small- to medium-sized facilities.

Further, the company is collaborating with clients to test the feasibility of recirculating carbon dioxide generated by the equipment into the production area to accelerate growth and increase yield. These collaborations are driven by the company’s mission to reduce facilities’ carbon footprint and become more resilient in the face of rising energy and input costs.

For more information:
Abinand Rangesh, CEO
[email protected]