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Transparent Solar Panel Technology for Energy Autonomous Greenhouses and Glass Buildings

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PanePowerSW (Transparent Solar Panel Technology for Energy Autonomous Greenhouses and Glass Buildings)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-02-28

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 world fresh water 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 the 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 900%; 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. Additionally, the direction in which we are currently heading requires sustainable energy solutions to satisfy the growing need for electricity in the extended populated areas. The primary global energy demand could increase by 50% by the middle of the century, and at least 80% of this demand will come from developing countries.
Currently, buildings account for nearly 40% of the total global energy consumption, and it is estimated that the potential energy savings in buildings could reach between 20% and 40% with new solutions. As a response, we are currently observing a growth of the Building-Integrated Solar Photovoltaic (BIPV) market, worth €2.8 billion in 2015, and expected to reach over €8.4 billion by 201912. Currently, solar panels are limited to roof instalments and lack versatility (e.g. as windows to allow the entrance of the light inside greenhouses or buildings).
In contrast to other market solutions, PanePowerSW is a uniquely transparent (up to 70%) solar panel glass that generates clean energy through PV technology lowering the energy costs, and, more importantly allowing the light to shine through greenhouses and commercial buildings windows. Using Dye Sensitized Solar Cell (DSSC) patented technology, its manufacturing process is based on ink-jet printing, which implies a low-cost manufacturing set up for mass production. Furthermore, the solid electrolyte used in the DSSC is produced at ambient conditions without special measures for purity, thus drastically reducing the manufacturing cost compared to other PV approaches with prices of €280/m2 (including installation) compared to our PV glass of €50/m2. Thus, PanePowerSW will reduce the structure’s dependence on grid-tied energy up to 25%.
Brite is an industry disruptor in the field of energy, producing a competitive priced transparent and patented solar glass solution, called PanePower™ Solar Windows (PanePowerSW), capable of generating electricity through the windows of homes, offices buildings, and greenhouses. PanePowerSW allows the entrance of 70% of white light while blocking the UV-light for energy generation. In the crop market sector, our trials (with a 100m2 greenhouse in Greece) have validated the efficiency of our Solar Windows and enabled the crop photosynthesis while at the same time minimizing the energy-operating cost to near zero. In Phase 2, a two-year project, we aim to scale-up our current manufacturing line to create solar panels from 21cm x 21cm
A remarkable progress has been achieved during the first year of the project that relates both to the technology for the solar glass but also its manufacturability. The following have been completed successfully:
• Specification of the materials and material deposition methods for making the solar glass.
• Construction of solar glass on large surfaces.
• Third party certification of solar glass properties.
• Detailed design, definition, and construction of the pilot line for solar glass.
• Detailed design and engineering implementation plans for the pilot greenhouse.
• Design and implementation of the greenhouse monitoring sensor network and application software.
• Development and launching of a CAD tool for the energy production and financial analysis of a solar greenhouse based on Brite’s solar glass technology.
During the second year of this project we will focus our work on completing the following tasks:
• 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.
PanePowerSW - production line development (1)