Earth Day Extra! Next-level greenhouse taps sun’s rays for crop/energy production

Hydroponic growing technique
Hydroponic growing technique

The greenhouse. It derives its name not from the color of paint adorning exterior surfaces, but, rather, from the activity taking place within, in this case, that activity being the growing of plants, the representative crops themselves mostly verdantly attired.

Inside the greenhouse, seeds are sown and new plantings take root, all of it done in preparation for future transplantation on the farm, out in the field, as it were.

So, wouldn’t you know it?! That greenhouse which for eons (just an expression) has served as a plant-growing facilitator, can now also be used to enable electricity production. That’s right. Now these can be employed as energy generators, making them truly multipurpose in nature.

“Last summer, Fremont, California-based Solaria, a provider of solar module technologies, and Soliculture, provider of greenhouse integrated photovoltaics (GIPV) for commercial greenhouse growers, secured a strategic collaboration for PV agriculture applications,” explained Gary Pullano, Vegetable Growers News Associate Editor in the March 2016 issue.

In the cover story “Powered up: Greenhouse system yields crops/electricity,” Pullano went on to state: “Solaria is supplying its cell processing technology for use with Soliculture’s luminescent solar concentrator technology. The new modules are able to generate electricity in an altered light spectrum optimized for plant growth.”

It was revealed in the Vegetable Growers News article in question as well that the very “first commercial trial” of such a photovoltaic (solar) panel in a greenhouse roof (not to be confused with on-the-rooftop solar panel installation) application, took place on a portion of one of the Watsonville, California-located Kitayama Brothers Farms’ greenhouses.

“This product answers the unique needs of farmers and their businesses for a material that has neutral effects on plants but that also generates enough power to make it economically compelling. Now greenhouse growers have a major incentive to incorporating building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) into their agriculture projects,” Solaria declared in a company press release.

Meanwhile, continued Pullano, “Information supplied by Soliculture said positive effects from use of the product has ranged from early crop maturation, disease resistance and longer production time. Electricity generated by the panels could offset the electricity needs of the greenhouse and other electrically sensitive equipment, like coolers, pumps and supplemental light.”

Solaria Business Development Director Carley Corrado, cited by Pullano in the article in question, talked up solar panels’ relative low costs and how through in-greenhouse-roof placement, the panels can provide a payback relatively quickly, that is, compared to the typical or common or usual photovoltaic cell application/installation.

Interesting also that the panels in this then (July 28, 2015) newest of approaches do double duty as a crop-growing encourager and electricity generator in an agricultural setting, no less, with the added benefit of cleaner air to boot.

A greenhouse that not only serves as a platform under which one is able to raise crops, but one also that seconds as a generator that facilitates in the production of watts.

Who would’ve thought?!

Image at top: NASA/Kennedy Space Center

– Alan Kandel