Geothermal greenhouse project in Coz Coz ends, giving the possibility of growing tomatoes 365 days a year

Wednesday, 22 de June

The project “Geothermal greenhouse for tomato cultivation”, financed by the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness (FIC) of the Regional Government of Los Ríos and its Regional Council, was completed with the discussion “Prospects for the incorporation of geothermal energy to improve agricultural production in the Los Ríos”, held in Coz Coz, Panguipulli commune.

The activity, held at the Faculty of Sciences of the Universidad Austral de Valdivia, was attended by the head of the Development and Industry Division of the Regional Government of Los Ríos, Miguel Ángel Martínez; the professional of the Access and Social Development Division of the Regional Ministerial Secretariat (Seremi) of Los Ríos, Johan Muñoz, and the director of CEGA, Diego Morata.

On the occasion, the participants had the opportunity to discuss the current experience of the Los Ríos in the use of shallow geothermal energy, pointing to the future challenges for the scaling up of the experiences carried out, in order to replicate them in the rest of the regional territory.

“We have successfully seen how the Los Ríos, thanks to public investment, has incorporated geothermal energy in its multiple possibilities, such as the direct use of hot springs; The implementation of Geothermal Heat Pumps for the air conditioning of greenhouses, the installation of the first geothermal air conditioning system in a Rural Health Post, which will be in Illahuapi, in Lago Ranco, will begin very soon, and we see that the next step should perhaps be to dare to go for district heating”, said Diego Morata, with respect to future prospects.

In this respect, Miguel Ángel Martínez said that “Innovation projects have a fundamental component, which is the human being, where all the important variables for the Region’s progress are harmoniously combined, in the best of cases, through the people who participate in the development of an initiative. In this sense, the work of the University of Chile and CEGA have been very important to show a new way of developing projects, covering all the important aspects, from the technical and economic, to the social and environmental.”

In the same line, Johan Muñoz, pointed out that: “it is important that the public service is a pioneer in the adoption of new technologies, which in turn allow to raise awareness among citizens about the opportunities that the region has to face the energy challenges with the natural resources that the region possesses. In this sense, he points out that it is important to advance in studies and projects that incorporate geothermal energy as a heating alternative in public buildings in the region”.

Geothermal greenhouse

The initiative, executed between 2020 and 2022, aimed to build, adapt and monitor a technified greenhouse prototype for the continuous production of tomatoes with Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs) in the Los Ríos. For this purpose, two GHPs were installed together with two inertial tanks and two plate heat exchangers, which make up the machine room that is connected by pipes to the extraction well and the greenhouse. Inside the greenhouse, two circulation pumps and eight fan coils, with their respective thermostats, distribute the heat to the more than 600 m2 of cultivated land.

“The incorporation of technology in productive greenhouse agriculture is a fundamental advance for regional, national and global food security. In this sense, using the world’s most efficient climate control technology, geothermal energy, in local tomato production is an opportunity to show all regional stakeholders that a good way to join this global trend is through innovative pilot projects,” explained Pablo Valdenegro, project coordinator.

Mario Aburto, a direct beneficiary of the initiative, highlighted the significant increase in production that this system could mean for his crops. “The fact that I no longer have the winter loss in my tomato production means gaining 90 days of production and more than 10,000 extra kilos of tomatoes. The benefit of being able to include geothermal energy to heat the environment inside the greenhouse is really a giant step forward for my production chain”.

As part of the closing activities of the FIC, a ribbon cutting was also held to inaugurate the machine room that feeds the geothermal system installed on Mario Aburto’s property in the Coz Coz area of Panguipulli.