Greenhouse farming has existed since the 15th century, and the idea of growing plants in an area that could be environmentally controlled can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Now, greenhouses are powered by electricity from the grid and their total food production ability has grown to more than 9 million acres, according to University of California, Santa Cruz environmental studies professor Michael Loik.
“It’s big and getting bigger,” Loik said in a press release, which announced a new solar greenhouse model developed by UCSC researchers Sue Carter and Glenn Alers. The new solar greenhouse technology would reduce dependence on greenhouses from the grid which could potentially cut down on energy consumption and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have demonstrated that ‘smart greenhouses’ can capture solar energy for electricity without reducing plant growth, which is pretty exciting,” Loik said in a UCSC press release.
These “smart greenhouses” use what’s called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs) to grow plants and generate self-sustaining electricity for the greenhouses. These are outfitted with transparent, pink roof panels that are stained with a luminescent dye which absorbs light and captures energy in narrow photovoltaic (PV) strips. Loik asserted that WSPVs are less costly than traditional photovoltaic systems while generating electricity more efficiently.