Boilers improve sustainability, energy efficiency at mushroom farm
Ostrom Mushroom Farms looked to expand their operations with a new facility that better suited their mushroom growing as well as improve their energy efficiency with three boilers that provided significant energy savings across their 43-acre facility.
Ostrom Mushroom Farms, which has been around since 1928, is the largest producer of mushrooms in Washington State. They sell a variety of mushrooms to consumers in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Alaska.
In 2019, Ostrom decided to expand their business by moving from Olympia to a new facility in Sunnyside, Wash. The facility offered an ideal opportunity to operate more sustainably than their previous facility.
While the company’s growth was part of the reason from the move, there were environmental factors in play, as well. Moving their operations from Olympia to Sunnyside allowed Ostrom to be in a climate more conducive for growing mushrooms. Olympia, located in the Western part of Washington near Seattle, is colder and rainier. Sunnyside, meanwhile, is in Eastern Washington and is in a drier, more arid climate better-suited for growing mushrooms.
While the facility itself is indoors and climate-controlled, the environment and climate gave Ostrom the control they need as they look to improve sustainability. With help from Cascade Natural Gas Corporation’s Commercial Incentive Program, Ostrom installed three high efficiency condensing boiler systems that reduced energy use without harming productivity.
Sustainability is a fundamental business value and Ostrom wanted equipment that could help reduce energy use at every stage of the production process.
“Sustainability here at Ostrom is really the core of our DNA. We want to reduce our energy costs and our carbon footprint,” said Travis Wood, CEO of Ostrom Mushroom Farms. “There are critical energy inputs at every part of the process.”
The mushroom growing process is highly automated and reliability is essential; steam is generated 24/7. The boilers have an automated display that make it easy for team members to monitor temperature and adjust as needed.
Bradey Day, program manager of TRC Companies, said installing the boilers for Ostrom was a new kind of challenge for them and Cascade, which was contracted to do the installation. They used three ClearFire ultra-high efficiency/low emissions duel fuel natural gas and propane firing condensing hot water boilers from Cleaver-Brooks for the project. They are 96% efficiency a design pressure of 125 PSIG, which allows them to operate in tough conditions.
“For agriculture, this was new for the Cascade Natural Gas program,” he said. “It’s the first time we had incentivized the installation of boilers specifically for an indoor agricultural application. We had worked with farms on projects in the past, but as far as the growing process and using boilers not just as space heating, but for multiple applications in an agricultural facility, this was the first project.”
While this was a large undertaking, there was comfort in knowing the boilers themselves would be a constant even if the project itself had some unique aspects.
While the facility itself is indoors and climate-controlled, the outside weather and climate gives Ostrom the control they need as they looked to improve sustainability and energy efficiency within a new facility.
“It was, I think cool for them to have a fresh start to be able to build as efficiently as possible from day one,” Day said. “Whereas when you’re retrofitting an existing building, there’s so many operational challenges in order to keep business going. You have to make adjustments and you can’t be as efficient as you’d like to be.”
In terms of size and scale, this was a record high for Cascade in a few respects. Installing the boilers on the 43-acre property showed Day and Cascade how much efficiency and savings they could generate in one facility.
“I think the scale of the units themselves and how efficiently they run and how this can be replicated at other properties,” Day said, noting the three installed boilers were 3.3 million British thermal units (BTUs) each. “That’s almost 10 million BTUs. Our typical project is 250,000 BTUs. The scale of the project is unique and it was cool to see how it could be used in so many different applications. Generally, boilers are used for space heating or water heating. These were used for the entire facility.”
The annual savings for Ostrom amounted to 91,980 therms per year as well as incentives for the energy savings. These savings help Ostrom can focus on growing quality, sustainably produced mushrooms rather than worrying about rising energy costs, which are becoming a growing concern throughout.
– This article appeared in the Gas Technology supplement.
Cascade Natural Gas Corporation