Soliculture greenhouse photovoltaic panels give growers a second harvest of electricity without impacting plant growth

Soliculture (Scotts Valley, California) has released a new type of commercial greenhouse panel that both improves light quality by amplifying colors that are beneficial to plants and generates electricity with no loss to production. Soliculture has completed 3 years of commercial plant growth trials including vegetables, ornamentals, cut flowers, and berries that have shown that these panels mounted directly above crop production have neutral to positive effects on plant growth.

Positive effects have ranged from early maturation, disease resistance, and longer production time. Electricity generated by the panels can completely offset the electricity needs of the greenhouse and other electricity intensive equipment like coolers, pumps and supplemental lighting. The low incremental cost of installing the panels in a new greenhouse enables a payback time shorter than a conventional solar panel array.

Soliculture panels are the only photovoltaic panel on the market that enables the coexistence of agriculture and electricity production providing a solution to the ongoing land use debate of solar vs. agriculture. The panels enhance light quality and increase power generation by absorbing green light that plants don’t absorb efficiently, and converting it to red light. This attribute allows the panels to wavelength-selectively shade crops. The reduced intensity of green light onto the crops has been shown to reduce leaf temperature, and reduce stress. The enhanced red light improves light quality by better matching the photosynthetic response. The enhanced red light also increases the power output of solar cells embedded in the panels. Soliculture has partnered with Solaria Inc (Fremont, California) to use their proprietary solar cell singulation technology to harvest solar energy while removing a minimum amount of light from the crops. Solaria brings 12 years of photovoltaic manufacturing, reliability and systems experience to the product that is built in the USA.

 

8 kW GIPV installation in Watsonville, CA.
8 kW GIPV installation in Watsonville, CA.

 

Integrating Soliculture’s solar panels into greenhouses is a win-win. The majority of conventional solar power cost is racking and installation, but there is no additional racking needed when solar panels are integrated into the greenhouse structure itself. Furthermore, when installed during new greenhouse construction, solar panel installation labor is essentially free. The federal solar tax credit of 30% of the total project cost includes the greenhouse structure, as it is the racking system for the panels. This tax credit will extend through the end of 2016, and then likely be reduced to 10%. The power generation revenue from the panels ranges from $0.75 to $3 per sq. ft. of greenhouse space, depending on the electricity rates and solar irradiance.

About Soliculture: Dr. Glenn Alers formed Soliculture in 2012 using technology developed in Professor Sue A. Carter’s physics laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The team collaborated with plant physiologists and professional growers to optimize the solar panel transmission spectrum for photosynthesis. Since 2012, Soliculture has performed plant trials at over ten different greenhouse locations, from high light areas like southern California to low light areas in Alberta, Canada. In 2015, Soliculture partnered with Solaria for the unique synergy between Solaria’s proprietary cell processing technology and Soliculture’s plant-optimized Luminescent Solar Concentrator (LSC) technology.

For more information, please visit www.soliculture.com.

About Solaria Corporation: Solaria Corporation is a solar technology company that is paving the way for decentralized, clean power generation through optimized solutions for a range of applications. Solaria designs, manufactures and markets high-efficiency silicon PV modules and systems for rooftop, utility, building facades, and greenhouses. Solaria headquarters are in California. For more information, please visit www.solaria.com.

If you have questions about specific crop trials or would like a quote for a system, email info@soliculture.com.