Research projects now underway at the TRDC plan to demonstrate how greenhouses used for growing vegetables and fruits can also generate huge amounts of solar energy. The project is based on a unique characteristic on Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) strips, third generation semi-transparent solar energy strips that allow part of the light to be used for growing food and part for generating power.
Initial research in greenhouses used for growing tomatoes and cucumbers has already proved that power can be generated without any significant drop in the greenhouses’ agricultural yield. Now the challenge is to learn how to optimize the generation of electricity and the semi-transparent OPV strips affect various crops with various part of the spectrum
The need for more solar energy is clear as the world tries to minimize the effects of global warming with a technology that is cheap, available and suitable for all countries with enough sunshine. However, large arrays of solar panels take up a huge amount of space, which cannot be used for any other purpose.
A large and growing percentage of the vegetables in the world are grown in greenhouses, where yields are much higher and water losses are reduced, but many vegetables need filtered light to reduce radiation. Some greenhouses are also major energy consumers. What we propose is to combine the need for solar energy space with the demand for vegetables, creating dual-use acreage for growing food and generating power
Our initial research proved the basic viability of generating power while growing vegetables but much more needs to be learned until this technology becomes a viable option for farmers. The questions that need resolving are the area of power generation, the effect of OPV strips on the microclimate inside the greenhouse and the effect of the OPV panels on the health of the plants and the kind of vegetables grown.
To answer these questions researchers from the TRDC are working on multi-disciplinary teams in three separate research projects. The TRDC team is concentrating on the power generating aspects of OPV while our partners in the Israeli ARO and the University of Arizona are concentrating on the microclimate and effect on vegetables.
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