Fulcrum wins multi-million contract for eco friendly cucumber greenhouse

Gas and electricity provider Fulcrum is to power a 22 hectare renewably heated vegetable greenhouse as part of its plans to help decarbonise the agriculture sector.

Greencoat Capital’s large-scale £85m greenhouse near Ely, Cambridgeshire, will be one of the largest built greenhouses in the UK
Greencoat Capital’s large-scale £85m greenhouse near Ely, Cambridgeshire, will be one of the largest built greenhouses in the UK

The Sheffield-based group, which is focused on delivering infrastructure for the UK’s net-zero future, has been awarded a £5.5m contract to design and install electricity, gas and water infrastructure for Greencoat Capital’s £85m greenhouse in Cambridgeshire.

Fulcrum said it will be one of the largest greenhouses in the UK and will have the capacity to grow 10 per cent of the cucumbers eaten in Britain. The group is working with AGR Renewables on the project.

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It said 6km of electricity infrastructure, 13km of gas infrastructure and 3km of water infrastructure will provide network connections to a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) energy centre adjacent to the greenhouse. The centre will power open loop heat pumps, which will use heat from the nearby reservoir to warm the greenhouse.

As part of a world first, the CHP plant will also power LED lighting that will accelerate plant growth and increase year-round yields by 27 per cent. Carbon dioxide produced by the gas-fired CHP energy centre will then be transferred to the greenhouse to be recaptured by the plants to support the growth of the vegetables.

The renewable heating process will deliver a 30 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide compared with conventionally heated greenhouses. It will also use 10 times less water than is used for field-grown vegetables.

This will be the third renewably heated greenhouse developed by Greencoat Capital and will generate almost 300 full-time and seasonal jobs.

With plans for the greenhouse to be operational before the end of the first quarter next year, Fulcrum has undertaken a programme of design and pre-mobilisation works to ensure that it can deliver the infrastructure within a relatively short timescale, enabling the energisation of the electricity and gas connections and completion of the water infrastructure before the end of this year.

Terry Dugdale, CEO of Fulcrum, said: “We are delighted to be using our capabilities and expertise to power this greenhouse, which will support the decarbonisation of the UK agriculture sector and help reduce food mileage.

"With 85 per cent of the UK’s cucumbers imported from abroad, these huge greenhouses have the capability to increase the volume of home-grown vegetables in a sustainable way through methods that use renewable, low carbon energy.

“We have worked closely with AGR and Greencoat, bringing our experience of multi-utility infrastructure and CHP energy centres to ensure that this project can be delivered to a relatively short timescale, so vegetable production can begin early next year.”