Color Point Pushes Sustainable Wood Usage with Wood-Fired Greenhouse

Wood chip processing operation

Wood chip processing operation at Color Point’s massive greenhouse operation in Granville, IL. View more photos.

By Matthew Kent Baxley

Color Point’s greenhouse operation located in Granville, IL, has been warming more than just their orchids and pansies within their massive 80-acre site.

Tucked away in the rear of the facility are some of the largest wood burning boilers in the entire state of Illinois. These boilers have been supplying nearly the entire year-round heating requirements for the greenhouse and are doing it almost completely through the use of wood waste and urban wood chips.

The Color Point greenhouse (formerly Mid-American Growers) is one of the largest greenhouses in the state of Illinois, providing employment for between 325 and 500 employees depending on the season. The operation began in the early 1970s with only a few small acres, and has grown into one of the most impressive cultivators in the state of Illinois. The  company produces dozens of plant varieties, each in its specific climate-controlled conditions. Most of the plants supply Lowe’s stores across the Midwest.

Maintenance supervisor Damien Kostellic oversees the operation of the three massive 30 million BTU boilers that are used to heat the facility, each capable of putting out 8 MW when fully operational. The boilers run on wood chips pulled from miles around, with daily shipments coming in from as far as the Chicago suburbs. Mr. Kostellic indicated that their burners are able to take almost any variety of wood chips as long as they come in under 3 inches long and less than 30% moisture content. The majority of the wood trucked in comes from used, chipped wood pallets, but a noticeable portion is also derived from local urban wood waste. The boilers typically burn through 900 to 1,000 cubic yards of wood chips during an average operational day. They have a maximum capacity of about 220 tons per day.

After the wood is burned in the boilers, the heat is either transferred throughout the greenhouse through a vast network of water tubes or stored in the 1 million gallon hot water storage tank at approximately 195 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the event of an issue with the boilers, the maintenance staff also has a sizable natural gas backup system.

It is a testament to the efficiency of wood-fired heating that Color Point is continuing to burn wood even with the current availability of low-cost natural gas.

Want to see more?  Check out this gallery of images taken from the tour here:  Color Point Greenhouse Photo Gallery