Soliculture, a company based on technology developed in the Thin-Film Optoelectronics Laboratory of physics professor Sue Carter, has been busy describing to growers the advantages of utilizing their photovoltaic panels on greenhouses.
To put it merely, stated Glenn Alers, CEO of Soliculture, Soliculture panels enable more power, more produce more revenues.
The panels themselves are not what you anticipate when you think of a solar panel: they’re translucent, and they’re a bright shade of magenta.
How magenta makes greenhouses greener.
The idea to apply transparent photovoltaic panels to greenhouses happened as a delighted accident.
Carter and her research team were working on bright solar concentrators, which use a fluorescent dye to absorb light and make solar panels significantly more efficient.
The concentrator color takes in the sunlight and after that re-emits it as lower energy photons. This implies you can use a lot fewer solar panels, because the absorber is doing the work, described Carter.
No system is perfectly efficient, and there’s constantly light that doesn’t get used by the solar panel and is lost. In this case, there was something fascinating about the rosy-colored light being lost from the panels they were testing. This light wasn’t waste: it was fuel.
We recognized that the red color of the light was exactly what you see in commercial grow lamps for plants, Carter said.
Plants put on to use the whole spectrum of noticeable light for photosynthesis grow lamps optimize the colors of light that plants really use to grow. The solar panels established in Carter’s laboratory taken in thumbs-up and released traffic signal to boost the power generation of the solar cell and the excess red light occurred to fall precisely in the variety of the spectrum that plants use.
Benefits of a solar greenhouse
The greatest obstacle to greenhouse adoption is cost, consisting of the cost of setup and materials, and the continuous cost to cool, heat and light the greenhouses. Utilizing photovoltaic panels to produce electricity dramatically reduces the cost of powering a greenhouse. Carter and Soliculture are working now to show that a fully net-zero greenhouses is possible.
We’ve just recently gotten a lot of interest in our innovation in Canada, said Glenn Alers. With such a brief growing season integrated with high electricity rates, the requirement for panels like ours makes ideal sense.
In the United States, installing a solar greenhouse makes even more economic sense because they receive federal tax breaks aimed at promoting solar power.
California is one of the most significant users of greenhouses in the country if not the greatest, and it will just get bigger, said Carter, citing as 2 motorists the California drought and increased need for natural produce.
As the cost of photovoltaic panels continues to drop, crops that were as soon as too expensive to grow in greenhouses are most likely to take root. Tomatoes and cucumbers are widely grown in greenhouses now, but lettuce and other crops could quickly discover a place there, too.
The strawberry industry is starting to test greenhouses, stated Carter. They also have the advantage of bringing the crop up greater, which makes it less physically challenging for pickers.
In hotter areas, like California s Central Valley, cooling ends up being an issue. Growers use swamp coolers and blinds to obstruct the sunlight. Here again, the color of the panels is practical. Not only do the panels provide electricity to power swamp coolers, however the colored shading of the panels keeps greenhouses cooler and can eliminate the need for blinds.
Green development grows at UC.
Soliculture isn’t the only company seeing green in going green; they’re part of a large crop of startups and green technology developments to emerge from UC research over the last few years.
Now is the ideal time for entrepreneurship in green technology, said Carter.
The newly released 2015 Technology Commercialization Report from the University of California Office of the President shows that Carter isn’t alone in her thinking. Startups like Tule Technologies based upon UC Davis innovation are helping California growers adjust to restricted water materials, and clean energy start-ups from wave energy to next-generation battery manufacturers are emerging from UC creations at a quick pace.
Generally it takes a long period of time to move from concept stage to market, stated Carter, but today a mix of beneficial policy modifications, natural disasters, and lifestyle changes are speeding up everything.