In Cornelius, Oregon, about half an hour west of Portland, there is a new attraction at a popular commercial nursery. Blooming Nursery sits on 130-acres on the site of a former dairy farm; the owner has worked for the better part of three decades to transform it into a profitable business.
Yet the future – not the past – is what is most newsworthy. The nursery is installing the largest solar thermal system in the state of Oregon. Solar thermal panels work differently than photovoltaic (PV) panels. Instead of generating electricity, the panels heat tank water, providing solar heated water that will circulate underground and warm plants growing in a 54,000 square foot greenhouse.
Currently, contractors are installing solar thermal panels along the length of the nursery’s 700-foot driveway. A covered concrete tank will hold 300,000 gallons of water, which will be heated by the solar thermal system. Consider this surprising observation from The Oregonian‘s review:
“The system is so immense and the tank so well-insulated that it will retain heat for months.”
Blooming Nursery’s owner states that she will use natural gas only as a backup.
In case you are wondering what the new solar thermal system cost…. the owner is keeping that figure, well, “mum.” She did state that her current heating bill is $150,000 per year, and that the project will pay for itself in about 5-8 years, including a 50% tax credit provided by the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit program.
Blooming Nursery will save enough in its annual natural gas bills to heat 200 homes!
Other commercial nurseries in Oregon and across the U.S. are watching to determine the effectiveness of the solar heated water system at Blooming Nursery. And there is a lot at stake. Annual nursery sales in Oregon top $820 million. Being able to defray part of the energy costs associated with heated greenhouses will help not only the bottom line but the environment, as well.