KVU Energy Consulting Inc.: Helping Greenhouses Save Energy & Money

Interview with Kerry Von Urbaniak, CGG, Owner

4426 S Xenophon Way
Morrison, Colo. 80465

What led you to start this company?

I have an extensive background, particularly in teaching, with technical trades such as electrical, heating, cooling, control systems, solar, and the like, plus a keen interest in greenhouse growing. After teaching energy systems and efficiency methods at EcoTech Institute for seven years, I approached CNGA to see if there could be a fit for someone with my talents to offer energy consulting services. Learning that CNGA included a wide range of businesses that utilized greenhouses, I decided it was time for a change, seeking a more fulfilling path, and started my business in 2019. I also joined CNGA and passed the Certified Greenhouse Grower exam. After visiting a number of CNGA members, I quickly realized how much energy waste was taking place. I knew I had made the right decision!

monitoring energy usage
Monitoring electricity usage can identify inefficiencies.

What is your goal in helping your clients?

I have two main objectives: help them improve their profitability and enable them to become more environmentally responsible. I offer a level of experience that is probably unique when it comes to understanding all the systems in a greenhouse. This allows me to easily spot any number of ways in which an operator can save money. From small things like cleaning pipes and sealing air leaks to boiler upgrades and solar panels, I open their eyes to what’s possible when it comes to saving energy, which means saving money.

How does the process work?

The first step is research – getting to know how the facility works. Through onsite visits and discussions with the appropriate staff, I will assess the current condition and determine energy and equipment inefficiencies. In the next step, I will make the operator aware of the available options to resolve the issues I’ve discovered. If requested, I will provide financial impacts, cost savings, and ROI determinations. Seeing the numbers is a good motivator for seeking better efficiencies.

improving energy efficiency
Cleaning boiler water tubes improves efficiency.

Are renewable energy sources still relevant?

Absolutely. While not every situation may warrant or justify renewable energy, it is always something worth evaluating. If the numbers work, not only can there be cost savings but the environmental benefits help our overall efforts to reduce carbon emissions. As an example, a greenhouse operation of any size can install a solar panel system and immediately start offsetting the daytime electricity charges, with the amount of offset dependent on the number of solar panels used. If the company pays a two-tier electric rate – higher rate for day time use and lower rate for night time use – they can offset the higher day time rates and get a faster ROI, especially now that solar panels have become more efficient and less costly.

Troubleshooting power distribution circuits

What are some of the simpler ways to cut energy costs?

A good starting point is the building envelope. More often than not, there is a significant amount of thermal (heat) energy being lost through cracks, poor insulation, gaps, and ductwork. Fixing these problems is typically on the lower end of costs, and offers immediate savings. Then, how efficient is the equipment? Do filters need to be changed, are pumps old and energy consuming, are fans set at proper speeds, and are controls calibrated properly? If an operator is serious about saving money, then I can find it by improving the efficiencies of their energy use.