Bigro – Finding Success In Greenhouse Lighting Flexibility

Bigro is a vegetable grower in the heart of Finland, whose operations include over 140,000 m2 of fields used for grain and another 42,000 m2 dedicated to tomato greenhouses. Much of this success has come from their position as a leader in artificial lighting for greenhouses. By equipping their facilities with high-pressure sodium lighting systems, they can weather the harsh Finnish climate and double the operational seasons to 12 months a year.

Since 2017, Sympower has worked with Bigro to utilise the value of their lighting systems by contributing 23MW to Finland’s FCR-D Up and FCR-D Down markets, as a part of Sympower’s demand response services. They’ve been able to further profit from their lighting assets, without negatively impacting their overall production.

Finding hidden flexibility in existing assets

Sympower approached Bigro with an offer to discover new revenue streams from their extensive greenhouse lighting systems. As a key player in the industry, they were looking for ways to increase the company’s corporate responsibility standards while maintaining its reputation for food quality and safety.

There were understandable questions of how this process could compromise the growing practices of the greenhouse. While Bigro wasn’t familiar with demand response, they knew about Sympower’s experience with greenhouse lighting systems. Sympower’s track record in the space gave them the confidence to move ahead and discover what flexibility they had to offer.

Working with Sympower has been easy and simple. They are always responsive and I’m happy with their services. The added revenue is a major plus!

Börje Ivars, Founder, Bigro

Sympower managed the installation, including examining the lighting requirements, installation of controllers and power metering, and testing the system. Through a series of thorough testing, Sympower’s Nordic energy experts demonstrated that Bigro’s greenhouses could participate in demand response without impacting their core processes and production, all without requiring any upfront investments to their existing assets and production line.

The impact of transitioning from 12MW to 23MW 

As of the 1st of June 2017, Bigro officially began participating in Sympower’s demand response services. The company started by making 12MW of capacity available to the FCR-D Up and FCR-D Down Finnish reserve markets, allowing Sympower to intermittently turn on and off the greenhouse lights, and earning them between €80,000 – €100,000 that year.

The Frequency Containment Reserves (FCR) markets act as backup power sources that can be deployed quickly in response to sudden imbalances between electricity production and consumption. This activation occurs within 30 seconds, and can last up to 15 minutes. The specific requirements involve 50% of the contracted capacity to be activated within 5 seconds of a frequency deviation, with 100% being ready for activation within 30 seconds.

FCR-D Up requires Bigro’s lighting system to turn off, to decrease electricity consumption momentarily, thereby reducing demand, while FCR-D Down involves turning on their greenhouse lights to increase electricity consumption and reduce imbalances. Bigro is paid when their assets are activated, with payment being determined by the amount of MW contributed and the price at the time of delivery. For Bigro, activations usually occur three times per month, automatically through Sympower’s portal.

Following the success of their first experience, Bigro decided to increase the amount of megawatts contributed to 23MW of capacity.  As a result, they now earn almost €380,000 in gross revenue per year, while maintaining the same yields of produce.

The future of Bigro with Sympower

Sympower’s work with  Bigro perfectly illustrates the potential financial benefits of demand response for industrial and commercial businesses, while ensuring limited impact on their production processes. In addition to the financial benefits, participating in demand response has allowed Bigro to excel in their corporate social responsibility. This potential would have been unavailable to them prior to working with Sympower.

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