Could a new rose-colored glass change the world of greenhouse design? A UC Santa Cruz spinoff called Soliculture has discovered that covering greenhouses in magenta solar panels allows plants to grow better while generating electricity more efficiently and at less cost than with traditional photovoltaic systems.

The pinkish panels are a new technology called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). A bright magenta luminescent dye is embedded into the panel glass. The dark color absorbs blue and green wavelengths of light and transfers the energy to the photovoltaic strips, where electricity is generated and used to power the greenhouse’s fans, heaters, watering systems, etc. The idea behind the technology is to convert greenhouses into ultra-efficient food production systems that can operate completely off-grid.

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The team behind Soliculture conducted a study to compare the growing conditions of traditional, transparent greenhouses with the new magenta-clad buildings. Using a variety of plants, including 20 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, peppers, strawberries and basil, the researchers monitored both photosynthesis and fruit production in both structures. The results of the study showed that 80 percent of the plants weren’t affected by the magenta light, and 20 percent of the inventory actually grew better. Even better, the tomato plants grown in the WSPV houses required 5 percent less water.

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According to Soliculture co-founder Prof. Michael Loik, the colored panels were a bit of an experiment,”I thought the plants would grow more slowly, because it’s darker under these pink panels,” says Loik. “Plants are sensitive not just to the intensity of light but also to color. But it turns out the plants grow just as well.”

+ Soliculture

Via New Atlas

Images via Soliculture and Elena Zhukova/UC Santa Cruz

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