Transparent solar cells boost lettuce farming while decreasing energy use

New research found transparent solar cells can help greenhouse growers generate electricity and reduce energy use while cultivating crops

The Big Zero report

Greenhouse farming of lettuce can be sustainable and energy efficient under transparent solar cells.

That’s according to a new study by a team of researchers at North Carolina State University, which suggests semi-transparent organic solar cells (OSCs) can help greenhouse growers generate electricity, reduce energy use and cultivate lettuce.

Researchers, who have worked with the organic photovoltaic cell company NextGen Nano, believe OSCs provide a way for greenhouse cultivation without the large energy demands traditionally associated with it.

Published in Cell Reports Physical Science, the research found that red lettuce can be grown in greenhouses with OSCs that filter out the wavelengths of light used to generate solar power.

This means it is feasible to use transparent solar panels in greenhouses to cover their high electricity needs while not shrinking the crop yield.

Doctor Carr Ho, Research Scientist at NextGen Nano, said: “Greenhouses are used to grow plants because they drastically increase yield in non-native climates, while lowering water consumption and pesticide use compared to conventional farming.

“But greenhouse glazing has poor thermal insulation, so heating and ventilation systems need to be installed to help maintain optimal conditions. Along with supplemental lighting, this lights to large, unsustainable energy consumptions.”

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