Canada: Data center to provide heat to greenhouses

11-07-2019    01:30   |    United American Corp.

Miami-based United American Corp announced that its operating division, the Canadian Agriculture Thermal Energy Corporation / Corporation d'Énergie Thermique Agricole du Canada ("CETAC") has entered into an exclusive conditional Purchase Agreement in Beauharnois, Québec for the development of a new Heat Station Campus. The 90-acre site is located approximately 450 meters from the Hydro-Québec Léry substation.

Following the successful development of its first 8.5 MW Heat Campus in Ste-Marie-Madeleine, Québec and with plans for two new sites for an additional 3.8 MW currently underway, the Company is now preparing plans for the construction of a Campus with 10 Heat Stations, each supplying dry Agri-heat to a total of 770,000 square feet or 7 hectares of adjacent greenhouses. Between the data center agricultural Heat Station and greenhouse operations, the Campus is expected to provide direct employment for 150 people and will support a number of secondary jobs. The Beauharnois Campus will be called CETAC IV and at full capacity will use 40MW of power for Heat Stations and 9MW for photosynthetic lighting. 


With the significant increase in the world's digital economy, there has been an ever-increasing demand for data center services.  Market Insights, for example, has projected a compounded annual growth rate of some 28% until at least 2023. The Company is of the opinion that this trend will continue for some time; as North America transitions to 5G Wireless and the applications that use this high-speed connectivity, there will also be a major growth in personal cloud services and smartphone apps. 

While data centers are extremely demanding of electrical resources, UnitedCorp's approach incorporates solid principles of sustainable development. This includes the typical reduction of 20% in power by eliminating the need for air conditioning as well as the utilization of the heat generated by the servers for organic greenhouse operations year-round. Furthermore, with a population of just over 5 million people within 100 miles of the facility, the Company expects that all produce from the greenhouses will be sold locally, minimizing the carbon footprint from transportation – particularly in the winter months. Based on published data from Hydro-Quebec, the Company estimates that the Beauharnois facility would avoid some 240,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year when compared with a similar facility powered by electricity from fossil fuels.

CETAC intends to partner with local farmers and greenhouse operators for the operation of the greenhouses and, as with its first heat station campus, will soon issue an international Request for Proposal for the development of this site and installation of 6,500 cabinets of 6 kilowatts each. The Company has also applied for Hydro-Québec's Economic Development Rate which provides up to a 20% reduction in power rates until 2027. The Request for Proposal will be issued to international hyperscale data center cloud-based operators where environment health and safety, sustainability and carbon offset are a priority. The Company anticipates entering into hosting service agreements in Q4 2019. Each Dome will operate as a distinct legal entity within the CETAC IV Campus at just under 5MW each and the Company will seek private financing for each entity.

"Unlike other data center operations which utilize power for one purpose only and waste valuable heat output, CETAC IV is first and foremost an agricultural project. Through the creation of the heating system, it combines the increasing demand for data center services with economic development and food security while at the same time is mindful of climate change and the environment overall," stated Benoit Laliberté, President of UnitedCorp. "Our goal with this project, and eventually others in the Province, is to be the most green and sustainable operation in the world by using computer servers as heat sources while still generating the highest possible value-added per megawatt, all while maintaining full compliance with the Quebec Act Respecting The Preservation Of Agricultural Land And Agricultural Activities by making use of a land lot for agricultural purposes."

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Photo credit: United American Corp.

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