Communities and Collections

Framework for design and optimization of a retrofitted light industrial space with a renewable energy-assisted hydroponics facility in a rural northern Canadian community

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  • The purpose of this study is to develop a design framework for retrofitting a light industrial building with a hybrid renewable energy-assisted hydroponics farming system for production of fresh food in rural north Canadian communities. This design protocol is targeted at facilities in rural areas of northern Canada, which could benefit from better access to fresh food, especially given the harsh climate as well as the long and limited transport routes. The process includes 1) a review of the existing building; 2) an estimation of design loads for system sizing, such as temperature and humidity control, adequate lighting, airborne carbon, and water; 3) multi-objective genetic algorithm optimization of the hybrid renewable energy system for minimal operating cost and emissions; and 4) comparison of costs and greenhouse (GHG) emissions of the proposed farming operation
    with the traditional food supply chain. To demonstrate the proposed methodology, a case study building in a rural community in Alberta, Canada was evaluated for retrofit. The results showed that the GHG emissions generated from local hydroponic lettuce production, aided by a hybrid renewable energy system (HRES), are three times greater than those emitted by transporting an equivalent quantity of food from southern California, USA. On the other hand, the life cycle cost showed that the cost to produce lettuce from the case study facility is comparable to the price of lettuce available from traditional import, which shows a promising potential to provide fresh and cost-competitive food in the community, among other qualitative benefits gained from this empowering opportunity.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International