In a First, Electricity-generating Solar Greenhouses Help Grow Crops

In a First, Electricity-generating Solar Greenhouses Help Grow Crops

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Greenhouse farming, which has been in existence for over centuries, has evolved to dramatically up the volume of crops it helps produce. Thanks to constant progress in technology, it is now primed for another makeover. So long powered by electricity from the grid, greenhouse farming could soon have a new solar greenhouse technology driving it. 

A recent experiment by researchers showed that “smart greenhouses” are effective in arresting solar energy to generate electricity, which in turn can lead to healthy plant growth. The details have been revealed in the paper published in the latest issue of the journal by American Geophysical Union, titled Earth’s Future

What is the exact technology leveraged? 

Solar greenhouses that generate electricity, make use of an innovative technology called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). This technology was developed by professors of physics at University of California, Santa Cruz named Sue Carter and Glenn Alers. They also founded Soliculture in 2012 to usher the technology into the market. 

WSPVs produce electricity effectively. They are also cheaper than the traditional photovoltaic systems. Such greenhouses with WSPVs are equipped with roof panels that are transparent and have a bright magenta luminescent dye which soaks up the light and channels its energy to photovoltaic strips having small width. It is in the narrow photovoltaic strips that electricity is generated. 

The WSPVs absorb some of the green and blue wavelengths of light but allow the rest to pass through so that plants can grow properly. Using the technology, photosynthesis and production of fruits in about 20 types of tomatoes, lemons, cucumbers, peppers, limes, strawberries, and basil were observed in magenta glasshouses – two of which were located on the campus and another in Watsonville, California. While 80.0% of the plants weren’t affected, another 20.0% saw healthier growth.