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Bergen's Greenhouse gets a winter's worth of heat, thanks to a 600-ton donation from Dynamic Homes

Dynamic Homes donated about 625 tons of scrap wood to Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes to be used to partially heat their facility through the winter. The greenhouse's two-story biomass boiler uses about 30,000 pounds of finely graded wood chips per day to heat about four acres of coverage area in the 12-acre facility, of which temperature control plays a crucial role as the garden giant ships thousands of poinsettias during the holiday season.

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The climate-controlled Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes protects a field of their holiday poinsettias from the cold weather on Dec. 1, 2021. The greenhouse is partially heated thanks to a 600-ton scrap wood donation from Dynamic Homes in Detroit Lakes, which will be used as fuel for the facility's two-story biomass boiler. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

With a 600-ton donation, Dynamic Homes will provide about four acres of the winter heat for Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes this year.

In a Facebook post on Nov. 24, the greenhouse thanked Dynamic Homes for donating their excess scrap wood to be used as fuel for its two-story biomass boiler, which can heat up to four acres of coverage area in the 12-acre facility. Bergen's primarily uses two natural gas boilers, but the biomass boiler is always called upon to deliver much needed climate control during the cold winter months, said Justin Sieve, chief boiler operator for the greenhouse.

"Everything in here is perishable, so if it can't maintain the temperature it needs for the plants, they can ultimately die," said Sieve. "Or we can lose our infrastructure due to freezing damage to all the hot water pipes that are in the floor and overhead."

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A two-story biomass boiler sits ready to heat Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes on Dec. 1, 2021 as temperatures continue to drop through the winter months. The large boiler can use up to 40 cubic yards of mulched wood chips as fuel per day during the winter. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The boilers at the greenhouse heat up to 100,000 gallons of water, he said, and use an intricate piping system that transports the hot water throughout the facility and creates heat for the growing plants — which in the winter is thousands of poinsettias.

"There's about equal floor heat and equal overhead heat," said Sieve. "Most commercial buildings have one or the other, we have to run both just because of the lack of R-value in the evening."

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Justin Sieve, chief boiler operator at Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes, stands next to a nearly 600-ton pile of mulched wood chips on the back lot at Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes on Dec. 1, 2021. The scrap wood was donated by Dynamic Homes of Detroit Lakes and is expected to heat a portion of the greenhouse through the winter. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

R-value is a measure used to gauge the effectiveness of different types of insulation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy . A higher R-value translates to greater insulation effectiveness.

"A normal home is anywhere from R-12 to an R-25, we're probably an R-3," said Sieve. "If the heating was turned off in here, we'd have probably 4 hours to 5 hours before we're at dangerous levels, so it's a high stress job in the winter time, especially in the evening."

He added, even in the winter, during the daylight hours the greenhouse maintains temperature pretty well on its own, but, as soon as the sun sets, the greenhouse loses its reflecting power source and the boilers click on to provide the needed heat.

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"It can be 20 degrees below zero in February, if it's sunny out, the vents are trying to open because it's too warm in here," said Sieve. "It's absolutely amazing how much power the sun has, but at 5 o'clock, when the sun goes down, it's the exact opposite. You lose everything you gained during the day and you're trying to make up for it."

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A nearly 600-ton mulched wood chip pile sits on the back lot at Bergen's Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes on Dec. 1, 2021. The scrap wood was donated by Dynamic Homes of Detroit Lakes and is expected to heat a portion of the greenhouse through the winter. (Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The scrap wood donated by Dynamic Homes is ground into a fine mulch and is fed via a conveyor and fan system into the biomass boiler according to the settings on their temperature controls. The biomass boiler can use about 40 cubic yards of mulch for fuel every day it operates, and it takes Sieve about two hours to load the daily fuel into the storage container with a payloader.

Sieve is a certified boiler operator, which is a five-year certification process, and has worked as the boiler chief at Bergen's for about 10 years.

The donation partnership with Dynamic Homes occurs about every two years as the construction company's scrap pile grows and represents a win-win local partnership for the community, said Liz Holzer, a human resources staffer for Dynamic Homes.

"We look for opportunities of how we can make use of our waste, and that's been something that we've even done in the past with our scrap piles and things like that, that aren't as ground down as what they received," said Holzer. "But, yeah, we try to make good decisions with our scrap."

She also said the loading and hauling fees for scrap can fluctuate depending on the material. Typically, the fees range between $3,000 to $7,000, so when you get a local partner who's willing to split the hauling costs to acquire your company's waste product, it creates that win-win scenario for both businesses.

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"We've partnered with other businesses on different initiatives, too, because we just want to work locally," said Holzer. "It's a great community to be a part of, and to contribute with and for."

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESBECKER COUNTY
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