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Southwestern Ontario greenhouses are getting new incentives for LED upgrades

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The province is offering new incentives to make greenhouses more environmentally friendly.

The Ontario Ministry of Energy announced last week that up to $136 million will be invested to help greenhouse operators in southwestern Ontario improve energy efficiency through changes such as switching their lighting to LEDs.

While the details of the incentives are not yet known, Joe Sbrocchi, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, said the funding shows the government recognizes that greenhouses are a form of “farming of the future.”

Sbrocchi said about 70 percent of the new greenhouses are already equipped with LEDs.

LISTEN | Joe Sbrocchi, General Manager of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, talks about converting greenhouse lighting to LEDs:

According to Sbrocchi, LEDs use less energy and would therefore be cheaper to operate. They can be flexibly programmed to follow a specific lighting recipe for the plants they illuminate.

Traditional greenhouse lamps include high pressure sodium lamps (HPS). They require more electricity to operate, but also help keep the greenhouses warm, he explained.

Submitted by Peter LoewenSubmitted by Peter Loewen

Submitted by Peter Loewen

Sbrocchi said older facilities did not initially switch to LEDs because of the high cost and lack of availability of the technology.

“The cost difference has decreased significantly,” he said.

Sbrocchi says switching to LED lights from more traditional light sources will not make a noticeable difference in how much light is visible outside the greenhouses.

Additionally, the amount of light greenhouses can provide is limited due to regulations in communities like Leamington.

“There is much more [light] blocked by curtains and the like,” he said.

The program was announced Tuesday along with a number of other new energy efficiency programs. This includes an incentive for private customers to run their air conditioning less in the summer. The provincial government said the programs would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by three million tonnes over 20 years.

In a statement, a ministry spokesperson said support for greenhouses will take the form of incentives for the installation of LEDs and controls for lighting and environmental systems, including the option for incentives for solar energy production.

“This would reduce local peak demand, balance the need for new generation resources and save producers money on their bills,” the spokesman said.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the broader announcement is “a win-win for residents and businesses in Windsor-Essex.”