‘Smart Greenhouses’ Generate Electricity, Plants Fare Well Under Magenta Roof Panels

Smart greenhouses, also referred to as solar greenhouses, are found to generate electricity as well as nurture plants well with their magenta roof panels. It was previously thought that plants would grow slowly in this kind of environment due to the dark colors, but experts discovered that plants fare well under the colored light.

The findings of the study were published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Earth’s Future. The study was led by Michael Loik, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and other colleagues, according to Phys.org,

Loik says that they have demonstrated that smart greenhouses could capture energy for electricity without reducing plant growth. This means that crops grown at smart greenhouses are as healthy as those that are grown in conventional greenhouses.

Loik further explains that 80 percent of the plants were not affected, while 20 percent actually grew better under magenta windows. He adds that tomatoes and cucumbers are among the top greenhouse-produced crops worldwide.

New Atlas reports that Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs) technology powers the greenhouses. This technology produces electricity with ease and at less cost compared to the traditional photovoltaic systems. The greenhouses have bright magenta roof panel glasses that absorb blue and green wavelengths of light, then moves energy to narrow photovoltaic strips, which generate electricity and also allow the plants to grow.

The electricity could be used to power the greenhouse’s equipment such as fans, watering systems, and heaters. The WSPV technology was created by Sue Carter and Glenn Alers, co-authors and professors of physics at UC Santa Cruz.

In the study, the researchers monitored the photosynthesis and fruit production of 20 varieties of cucumbers, tomatoes, lemons, strawberries, basil, peppers, and lime in the smart greenhouses with magenta roof panels at two campuses and in Watsonville in California. They discovered that the plants could be nurtured well in these greenhouses. They previously thought that the plants are sensitive not just to the intensity of light but also to color, yet the color actually becomes better for plant growth.

The WSPV technology costs about 65 cents per watt. That is about 40 percent less than the per-watt cost of traditional silicon-based photovoltaic cells. Loik says that if greenhouses produce electricity on site, that lessens the need for an outside source which helps lower the greenhouse gas emissions even more. With this, the researchers are moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.

[Featured Image by TommyIX/Thinkstock]