Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Next generation of greenhouses may be fully solar powered

10.02.2020

Many greenhouses could become energy neutral by using see-through solar panels to harvest energy - primarily from the wavelengths of light that plants don't use for photosynthesis. Those are the findings of a new modeling study conducted by engineering, plant biology and physics researchers at North Carolina State University.

"Plants only use some wavelengths of light for photosynthesis, and the idea is to create greenhouses that make energy from that unused light while allowing most of the photosynthetic band of light to pass through," says Brendan O'Connor, corresponding author of the study and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State.


Many greenhouses could become energy neutral by using see-through solar panels to harvest energy - primarily from the wavelengths of light that plants don't use for photosynthesis. In some places this could make greenhouses energy neutral, or even allow them to generate enough electricity to sell it back to the grid -- creating a new revenue stream for growers.

Credit: Brendan O'Connor, NC State University

"We're able to do this by using organic solar cells, because they allow us to tune the spectrum of light that the solar cell absorbs - so we can focus on using mostly wavelengths of light that plants don't use. However, until now it wasn't clear how much energy a greenhouse could capture if it was using these semitransparent, wavelength selective, organic solar cells."

To address that question, researchers used a computational model to estimate how much energy a greenhouse could produce if it had semitransparent organic solar cells on its roof - and whether that would be enough energy to offset the amount of energy the greenhouse required to operate effectively. The model was developed to estimate energy use for greenhouses growing tomatoes at locations in Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

"A lot of the energy use in greenhouses comes from heating and cooling, so our model focused on calculating the energy load needed to maintain the optimal temperature range for tomato growth," O'Connor says. "The model also calculated the amount of energy a greenhouse would produce at each location when solar cells were placed on its roof."

The modeling is complex because there's a complicated trade-off between the amount of power the solar cells generate and the amount of light in the photosynthetic band that they allow to pass through. Basically, if growers are willing to sacrifice larger amounts of photosynthetic growth, they can generate more power.

What's more, the solar cells used for this analysis are effective insulators, because they reflect infrared light. This helps to keep greenhouses cooler in the summer, while trapping more warmth in the winter.

The end result is that, for many greenhouse operators, the trade-off could be a small one. Particularly for greenhouses in warm or temperate climates.

For example, in Arizona, the greenhouses could become energy neutral - requiring no outside source of power - while blocking only 10% of the photosynthetic band of light.

However, if growers are willing to block more photosynthetic light, they could generate twice as much energy as they required to operate the greenhouse.

In North Carolina, a greenhouse could become energy neutral while blocking 20% of the photosynthetic light. In Wisconsin, greenhouses couldn't become energy neutral using the semitransparent solar cells - keeping the greenhouse warm in winter requires too much energy. However, the solar cells could meet up to 46% of the greenhouse's energy demand.

"While the technology does use some of the light plants rely on, we think the impact will be negligible on plant growth - and that the trade-off will make financial sense to growers," O'Connor says.

###

The paper, "Achieving Net Zero Energy Greenhouses by Integrating Semitransparent Organic Solar Cells," is published in the journal Joule. First author of the paper is Eshwar Ravishankar, a Ph.D. student at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Ronald Booth, a Ph.D. student at NC State; Carole Saravitz, director of the NC State University Phytotron; Heike Sederoff, professor of plant and microbial biology at NC State; and Harald Ade, Goodnight Innovation Distinguished Professor of Physics at NC State. The work was done with funding from the National Science Foundation, under grant number 1639429.

Media Contact

Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386

 @NCStateNews

http://www.ncsu.edu 

Matt Shipman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.ncsu.edu/2020/02/next-generation-greenhouses/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2019.12.018

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht How iron carbenes store energy from sunlight -- and why they aren't better at it
07.02.2020 | DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

nachricht Using neutrons and X-rays to analyze the aging of lithium batteries
07.02.2020 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

Im Focus: Quantum fluctuations sustain the record superconductor

Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected

Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...

Im Focus: New coronavirus module in SORMAS

HZI-developed app for disease control is expanded to stop the spread of the pathogen

At the end of December 2019, the first cases of pneumonia caused by a novel coronavirus were reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, infections...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electric solid propellant -- can it take the heat?

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Pitt study uncovers new electronic state of matter

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers observe quantum interferences in real-time using a new extreme ultra-violet light spectroscopy technique

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>