Solar energy is a renewable free source of abundant and inexhaustible energy, but the shortage of land in some countries hinders while installing solar systems. According to Jan Ingenhoff, PhD, a research professor at the Institute of Advanced Technology, the University of Science & Technology of China (USTC), the solar panel would not be a realistic option in countries where the farmlands are limited.
A groundbreaking new solar panel system would allow simultaneous plant growth and solar energy generation on the same land, developed by Ingenhoff and fellow-researchers Wen Liu, PhD, and their team at USTC could solve this concern. The team has developed a new type of solar panel system called the Agriculture Solar Concentrator Photovoltaic.
So, how does the system work? Plants don’t actually need 100% of the light sources the sun provides, and the system is based on this concept. Ingenhoff explained that plants need only about 10% of the light, some blue and some red light, and the rest could be leveraged for solar energy generation.
The solar-panels are semi-transparent and curved, allowing some light to go through them, allowing the plants to grow and harvest solar energy. Furthermore, the panels covered with a film created by several polymer layers staged together to form a dichroitic multilayer film. The system has dual tracking, and can also be adjusted for the seasons, winter and summer.
The research team is working on four prototypes installed in China. The team will also have two more installations planned for 2019 and 2020, and they hope to make their system commercially available.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Solar Concentrator Photovoltaic is said to improve plant growth, especially in drought-stricken regions. The team is also expanding its system outside of Asia, and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado to set up new prototypes and joint actives.