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New Software Calculates Heating Costs in Greenhouse Operations

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Jonathan Frantz, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, and colleagues have developed Virtual Grower, software for calculating heating costs in greenhouse operations.

Virtual Grower makes use of a weather database of typical hourly temperature, light, and wind information of 230 sites from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The program enables users to define unique design characteristics such as building material and construction style, and also define the heating system and heating schedule. Virtual Grower will then predict heating costs based on the typical weather of the selected location. The Add New Greenhouse button allows values to be automatically populated for greenhouse name, length, width, knee wall height, materials, fuel types, infiltration, and heating system efficiency.

Virtual Grower also offers methods for estimating typical commercial-scale heating system efficiencies and air infiltration values. "Continued development will improve the software and allow users to perform baseline analysis of their heating costs, identify areas in their production to improve efficiency, and take some of the guesswork out of energy analysis in greenhouses," Frantz says.

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