Greenhouse agriculture plays an important role in sustainable crop production, however, the greenhouse industry is an energy-intensive sector that relies heavily on fossil fuels and contributes to significant greenhouse gas emissions. In order to address this issue, technological models that combine solar energy with agricultural greenhouses have been developed in the greenhouse industry over the last few years to improve the sustainability of greenhouse performance and have shown great commercial potential.
In some European countries where current regulations prohibit the installation of ground-mounted PV systems in agricultural areas, PV greenhouses are seen as a solution to bypass the current regulations. By installing PV systems on the roof or walls of the greenhouse, it is possible to achieve the dual benefits of food and energy production on the same piece of land. Photovoltaics can provide the energy needed to run the greenhouses and can increase farmers' incomes, bringing multi-sectoral development to rural areas. In addition, PV greenhouses are highly competitive for agricultural production in ecologically fragile and remote areas.
Current status of photovoltaic greenhouse research
The Netherlands is one of the world's leading countries in greenhouse cultivation, and according to incomplete statistics, there are currently about 10,000 hm2 of glass greenhouses in the Netherlands, accounting for 1/4 of the total area of greenhouse buildings in the world. all greenhouse equipment in the Netherlands are automated devices, and the application of technology started earlier, and the greenhouse skeleton technology is more mature. In addition to PV systems fixed to the roof of the greenhouse, some companies offer movable PV systems that can be installed on the roof and have a higher power output per square metre of PV panel. Compared to fixed systems, tracking PV systems will generate around 20-30% more electricity.
A study at the University of Tuscany, Italy, presents an innovative PV greenhouse prototype with variable shading to optimise the energy production efficiency of PV panels and agricultural production. Unlike static PV greenhouse systems, a dynamic control system is used to rotate the PV panels to enable light management inside the greenhouse crop to adapt to the light requirements of the crop. In addition, by varying the position of the PV panel blades, dynamic shading can provide passive cooling for the crop in warm weather and the increased coverage can generate more electricity.
A Spanish trial designed an integrated translucent amorphous silicon photovoltaic (a-Si) glass greenhouse prototype covering the entire roof surface and the main sides of the greenhouse. The results showed that the presence of translucent PV glass slightly reduced plant quality and accelerated the apical growth mechanism of light-loving plants. From a statistical point of view, however, this effect was negligible and it was concluded that the integration of translucent amorphous silicon photovoltaic glass (a-Si) is feasible for horticultural production.
Translucent organic photovoltaic arrays were used as roof shading for a greenhouse hydroponic tomato production system during a spring and summer production season in an arid region of the southwest USA. This study demonstrated the effectiveness of using translucent organic PV as seasonal shading for greenhouse production in high light areas.
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