Smart Solar Greenhouse Grows Healthy Crops

Step aside, fossil fuels — everyone is going solar. With eco-houses and trains now on the market, we might as well redesign as much as we can into solar. This is where electricity-generating greenhouses are stepping in.

Electricity-generating solar greenhouses utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), a novel technology that generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems… WSPVs absorb some of the blue and green wavelengths of light but let the rest through, allowing the plants to grow.

In testing a variety of plant species, researchers at UC Santa Cruz found that 80% remained unaffected by changes. The remaining 20%? They actually grew better under the building’s bright magenta windows.

“If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,” said [professor Michael] Loik. “We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”

The greenhouse uses 5% less water — a success, taking into account that greenhouses occupy 9 million acres of land. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the system costs 40% less than traditional means. Clearly, percentages have demonstrated a win-win situation for these buildings, which will hopefully bring users 100% satisfaction.

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China’s Solar Highway Recharges Electric Vehicles

Solar energy is taking over the power grid. It’s in building materials and even wallpaper, allowing homes to become more efficient and eco-friendly. For Chinese development group Qilu, the power of solar stretches beyond the comfort of a household. It recently tested its first solar road — and saw it through to success!

The solar road is made up of an insulating layer on the bottom, photovoltaic panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top.

The road itself will power street lights, signs, CCTV cameras, toll gates, and even recharge e-vehicles. Extra produced energy (which it apparently is capable of generating) will go to the state grid. The project cost Qilu well over 50 million euros, but considering its expertise in solar, China will likely bounce back.

Xu did not reveal the cost of the Jinan solar road but said it was half of similar projects in other countries. “With the development of solar power in China, the cost can be further reduced,” he said.

Looks like EV enthusiasts won’t have to worry about running on empty! (Except, maybe, iPhone carriers…)

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Concrete Structure Can Harness Solar Energy

Running on solar may seem simple enough, but it isn’t always the most affordable option. Some institutions, such as the famed solar high school in Copenhagen, can afford to maintain thousands of panels. But for those on a budget, alternatives such as solar blocks may be a more suitable option. Either way, engineers continue to develop more efficient methods for going solar. Designed in Zurich, this concrete roof prototype can generate solar power.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which builders install thin-film photovoltaic cells.

The fully-developed prototype will create more energy than it consumes. The structure’s components are reusable and the concrete itself is highly robust. The team considers its success a milestone — and rightfully so.

“We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting, thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.”

There isn’t yet word on recreating the roof commercially, but after four years of research, the wait shouldn’t be much longer.

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Solar Wallpaper Harvests Energy Using Photosynthesis

It goes without saying that solar is taking over fossil fuels by storm. Communities are fashioning panels into their infrastructure, including a Danish international school that dons a record-breaking 12,000 consoles. To work on making solar power more cost-effective, developers are creating solar blocks. However, scientists from two London universities may have found the most efficient way to incorporate solar power into homes with energy-producing wallpaper.

The solar bio-battery is part of a new type of renewable energy research known as microbial biophotovoltaics (BPV), which make use of cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic algae to convert light into electricity.

Though the process sounds daunting, all you need is a working inkjet printer. Not only is the wallpaper cheap to produce — it works as a disposable and biodegradable power tool. Technology such as biosensors will no longer require bulky devices that suit only a single purpose.

“Imagine a paper-based, disposable environmental sensor disguised as wallpaper, which could monitor air quality in the home. When it has done its job it could be removed and left to biodegrade in the garden without any impact on the environment.”

If that’s what scientists are promising, I sure do hope we won’t have to imagine any longer.

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