Smart Greenhouses to Generate Electricity
Scientists from University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, U.S. on November 5, 2017, developed smart solar greenhouses, which can produce renewable electricity without inhibiting the growth of plants. Smart greenhouses can capture solar energy efficiently to generate electricity.
“We have demonstrated that smart greenhouses can capture solar energy for electricity without reducing plant growth, which is pretty exciting,” said Michael Loik, University of California (UC), Santa Cruz, U.S. Tomatoes and cucumbers were the first crops grown inside electricity- generating smart greenhouses. Crops were observed to be as healthy as those grown in conventional greenhouses, researchers said
The principle behind electricity-generating solar greenhouses is that they utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), which is a novel technology of generating electricity more efficiently with less cost as compared to conventional photovoltaic systems. WSPV technology was developed by co-authors Sue Carter and Glenn Alers, professors of physics at UC Santa Cruz, who founded Soliculture in 2012 to bring the technology to market. Greenhouses use electricity to control temperature and power fans, lights, and other monitoring systems. Smart greenhouses are covered with transparent roof panels, which are embedded with a bright magenta luminescent dye that absorbs the light and transfers energy to narrow photovoltaic strips to produce electricity. WSPVs absorbs the wide range of blue and green wavelengths of light without affecting the growth of plants.
In additional experiments, small water savings were associated with tomato photosynthesis inside the magenta glasshouses. “Plants required five percent less water to grow the same amount as in more conventional glasshouses. I thought the plants would grow more slowly, because it’s darker under these pink panels. Plants are sensitive not just to the intensity of light but also to the colour.” Said Loik.
The team monitored photosynthetic activities and fruit production rate among 20 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, peppers, strawberries, and basil, which were grown in magenta glasshouses. “Eighty per cent of the plants weren’t affected, while 20 per cent actually grew better under the magenta windows. Tomatoes and cucumbers are among the top greenhouse-produced crops worldwide.” said Loik.
According to Loik, reducing the energy consumed by greenhouses has become a priority as the global use of greenhouses for food production has increased six-fold over the past 20 years to more than nine million acres today, which is roughly twice the size of New Jersey.
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