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Transparent Solar Panel Technology for Energy Autonomous Greenhouses and Glass Buildings

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PanePowerSW (Transparent Solar Panel Technology for Energy Autonomous Greenhouses and Glass Buildings)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2021-02-28

According to United Nations estimations, the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Food, energy and water are the three critical resources that must be managed if mankind is to thrive. With these figures, this means that in order to maintain the current nutrition levels, a 70-100% increase in the food supply will be required. Since agriculture accounts for most of the world freshwater withdrawals usage (59-70%), doubling the water requirement to satisfy the estimated food demand is clearly unsustainable. Greenhouse farming is a solution to the worldwide food demands as it can increase food production up to 1000% per hectare compared to open-field agriculture. Furthermore, greenhouses also reduce the amount of water needed to grow crops by 90%; however, operating them requires external sources of energy for heating, cooling, ventilation and pumping, which represent 25% of the total operating costs. Although agricultural energy consumption made up only 2.8% of final energy consumption in the EU-28, the global leader in greenhouse production of horticultural products, the Netherlands, has the highest energy consumption in Europe (7.2 %). Thus, greenhouse farming clearly shows an impact on the energy pool. In a world demanding a 70% increase in food production, the FAO High-Level Expert Forum has already pointed out the need for new technologies to reduce the derived environmental impact and energy requirements; this will also include sustainable greenhouse farming solutions. The objective of this project was to produce transparent solar glass that can be used in greenhouses in order to render them energy autonomous or reduce significantly, and hopefully eliminate, the energy operating cost for a greenhouse. In the first reporting period, we developed the technology and prototype glass aimed at addressing this problem. In the second reporting period, we validated the glass functionality, properties and performance through actual deployment to a 1000m2 greenhouse. The results of these tasks are very promising for the use of our technology towards a sustainable food supply with no adverse environmental impact. At the end of this project, we were in a position to report the world’s first crop production with a negative CO2 footprint per kg of crop produced.
Remarkable progress has been achieved during the project implementation:
• Construction and operation of the pilot greenhouse.
• Monitoring of the energy output and the crop growth in the greenhouse.
• Continuous improvement in the automation of tasks in the pilot production line for the solar glass.
• Establishing market distribution channels for solar glass and forecasting production quantities based on real demand from prospective customers.
• Market exposure for the technology and this project through participation in major international expositions and trade conferences.
• Development of a detailed financial model for the production of the glass based on actual purchase data of materials and labor.
• Establishment of commercial partnerships in the world markets.
• Wide dissemination efforts through publications, participation in international expos, webinar presentations and several national TV interviews.
The progress beyond the state of art is the development of nanomaterials and material deposition methods capable of yielding over 80% uniformly transparent solar glass for greenhouses and Agri-PV systems. The transparent solar glass doesn’t inhibit plant growth while generating clean energy which results in lowering nearly to zero the energy cost for operating a greenhouse. This is a significant economic impact for the greenhouse operator since 28% of this operating cost is energy. The social impact is even greater because the use of our solar glass was proven to result in a negative CO2 footprint per Kg of crops produced thus having a dramatic effect on reversing climate change and leading to the EU’s goal achievement for carbon-neutral production by 2030.
Brite Solar Glass Greenhouse
Energy Production Monitoring Dashboard