“Smart” greenhouses can grow plants while generating electricity

A solar greenhouse that has the ability to grow healthy tomatoes and cucumbers while generating solar electricity has been developed by scientists at the University of California. The researchers have hailed the solar greenhouse, praising dual-use farming and renewable electricity production and the potential ‘smart’ greenhouses can offer. Vegetables grown in the smart greenhouses were as healthy as those grown in a traditional one.

“We have demonstrated that ‘smart greenhouses’ can capture solar energy for electricity without reducing plant growth, which is pretty exciting,” said Michael Loik, professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author on a paper that appears in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Earth’s Future.

Wavelength-selective PV Systems (WSPV’s) are utilized by the Electricity generating greenhouses, a new technology that generates electricity, whilst allowing parts of the light spectrum to pass through.

Transparent roof panels embedded with a bright magenta luminescent dye that absorbs light and transfers energy to narrow PV strips, where electricity is produced are outfitted on the greenhouses. The WSPV’s technology absorbs some of the blue and green wavelengths of light while letting the rest through, allowing it to be absorbed by the plants.

The reduction of energy consumed by greenhouses has become a priority as the global use of them for food production has risen, and these new smart greenhouses could pave the way for a more efficient food and energy production system.

“This technology has the potential to take greenhouses offline,” said Loik, “If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,”

“We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”