In the middle of last year we learned that researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence in Science Exciton and Monash University had made a breakthrough with the next generation of perovskite solar cells , and that they could be very useful when incorporated into windows of glass, by transforming architecture, urban planning and energy generation itself.
Not surprisingly, at that time, the researchers showed in an article published in the scientific journal ‘Nano Energy’ that two square meters of solar window was capable of producing as much electricity as a standard solar panel installed on a rooftop.
Specifically, while the solar energy obtained through panels placed on a rooftop has a conversion efficiency of between 15 to 20 percent, semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17 percent, while transmitting more than 10 percent of incoming light. But it seems that the use of this new tool would go much further.
Now, it has been found that greenhouses equipped with semi-transparent solar cells could be able to generate electricity without affecting the growth and health of plants located inside , according to a new study, which would suggest that it might be possible to build greenhouses of neutral energy without damaging crops .
To reach this conclusion, the researchers at North Carolina State University tested clumps of red leaf lettuce under different types of glass and different wavelengths of light, keeping other typical variables such as temperature, fertilizer, water supplies and CO2 concentration equal.
A short time later, the lettuce that had been grown under solar cells showed no notable differences in any key measurements, including size, weight, CO2 absorption and antioxidant content. What’s more, as a bonus, the solar panels helped regulate the greenhouse temperature .
Specifically, while a lettuce control group was exposed to the full spectrum of white light, three other groups were grown under different blue light filters, simulating different types of absorption of the new solar panels, with the ratio of blue light to light. red set on each of the filters.
The experts did not find any significant difference between the experimental groups and the control group, just as they did not find any significant difference between the different filters.
What’s more, the scientists were surprised to find that there was no real reduction in growth or in the plants’ own health, which would mean that it would be one hundred percent possible to integrate transparent solar cells into greenhouses .
In this case, the solar panels were made up of semi-transparent organic solar cells (or ST-OSC), rather than the more common type made of silicon, which is commonly used in large solar power farms.
One of the main advantages of this type of solar panels is that they are very flexible , since they can be adjusted to absorb different wavelengths of light as required.
What would be the next step?
According to experts, the next step toward creating solar-powered greenhouses is to test this technology with plants and crops other than lettuce, and tomatoes could become good candidates.
But there is no doubt that these first findings are quite promising, not only in terms of health, but also of plant growth.
And many people seem to be interested in its evolution, as scientists confirm that this technology is feasible in principle , so it would only take one company to make the leap and start production at scale.