11/06/2017

Solar 'smart' greenhouses produce both clean electricity & food crops


A new breed of solar panel can do double duty on greenhouse roofs by not only generating renewable electricity, but also by using a light-altering dye to help optimize photosynthesis in the plants beneath them.

Normally, putting solar panels on the roof of a greenhouse wouldn't be a bright idea, as the panels would block the sun's rays from hitting the plants, but a spin-off company from UC Santa Cruz has developed a novel technology that lets sunlight through, while also changing its color to enhance plant growth and health. And a recent study confirms that Soliculture's LUMO solar panels, which are said to generate electricity efficiently and at a lower cost than conventional photovoltaic systems, don't negatively affect crop growth, and in fact work to boost yields in some plants and to reduce water usage.

The Soliculture LUMO panels, which are Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs) that feature narrow photovoltaic strips embedded in a "bright magenta luminescent dye" that can absorb some of the sunlight's blue and green wavelengths while converting some of the green light into red light, which "has the highest efficiency for photosynthesis in plants." One other advantage of WSPVs is their lower cost, which is said to be about 65 cents per watt, or 40% less than conventional solar panels....more