H. Ade, B.T. O’Connor, H. Sedoroff, W. You
North Carolina State University,
Keywords: solar cells, greenhouse
Summary:Controlled environment agriculture is widely used across the world, accounting for over 50% of vegetable produce in a number of countries including France, China, and South Korea. The European Union views greenhouse vegetable production as a potential alternative approach to the challenges of “competition for water, resources, rising costs, decrease in agricultural productivity growth, competition for international markets, and changes in climate”. Greenhouse vegetable production is much more intensive than field grown production, and offers significantly reduced water consumption by hydroponic systems and recycling, and thus has been suggested as a way to feed the ever growing world population. Greenhouse production of vegetables is also less prone to weather extremes and therefore a more reliable food production system. Currently greenhouses require a large amount of energy for temperature control and supplemental lighting. Thus, many are located near local sources of energy, such as landfills where released methane gas can be harnessed. A more self-sustainable greenhouse system that would reduce the cost for energy, water, fertilizer and pesticides while independent of location, would make such a highly efficient and environmentally friendly food production system economically more attractive by lowering the cost for the farmer. To realize a new agriculture paradigm at the nexus of food, energy, and water, we have started to investigate the viability of solar powered integrated greenhouse (SPRING) systems that integrates cutting edge semitransparent organic solar cell technology used for energy production with plant selection and genetic management for food production, and closed-loop greenhouse systems engineering for water and nutrient conservation. This presentation will primarily outline the concept of this potential niche application of organic solar cells and delineate some of the fundamental and technical challenges.