A recent study led by a team of researchers from the North Carolina State University is finding a way to use energy from see-through solar panels.
The energy thus obtained is through the wavelengths of light which plants don’t use for photosynthesis. “Plants only use some wavelengths of light for photosynthesis, and the idea is to create greenhouses that make energy from that unused light while allowing most of the photosynthetic band of light to pass through,” explained Brendan O’Connor, corresponding author of the study and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State.
O’Connor further added, “We’re able to do this by using organic solar cells because they allow us to tune the spectrum of light that the solar cell absorbs – so we can focus on using mostly wavelengths of light that plants don’t use.”
Organic solar cells (OSCs) is a source to gather energy from sunlight. These are flexible and also partly transparent. Furthermore, they are also tuned to absorb specific wavelengths of light.
Experts suggest the use of OSCs as roofing for greenhouses could be advantageous. Sufficient light is let through for plants to help them grow without hindrance. In addition, the panels also harvest enough to offset sufficient amount of greenhouse’s energy requirements.
For the study, researchers covered three different locations in the U.S., viz. North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona. As a result, the team was able to discover semi-transparent greenhouses to become energy neutral.
For instance, with plentiful sunlight in Arizona, a greenhouse with OSCs could be energy neutral while only blocking 10% of the plants’ sun. On the other hand, in less sunny North Carolina, the greenhouse could function by blocking 20% of natural daylight, and in the least sunny region of Wisconsin neutrality would not be reached, however, these greenhouses could still generate nearly half of their energy needs through this method.
O’Connor concluded, “While the technology does use some of the light plants rely on, we think the impact will be negligible on plant growth – and that the trade-off will make financial sense to growers.”