New Solar Technology May Help Energy and Food Production

By Nate Allen

A team of UCSC Scientists is working to bring solar electricity to greenhouses and agricultural land.  The idea is to use green and blue wavelengths of sunlight’s spectrum to produce electricity and let other wavelengths through to drive photosynthesis and plant growth.  This new concept could transform California’s agricultural land into food producing clean power plants.  Michael Loik, photosynthesis expert at UCSC said,

“Much of the current solar development in California scrapes away plants and flattens the habitat, then solar farms are installed. I want to install our technology in a way that is compatible with native vegetation.”

Innovative ways to apply solar PV are great for the solar industry.  The idea that solar PV can work with plants flourishing beneath it has tremendous potential.  Why not produce energy and food from one location if technology could allow it?  Food crops, flowers, and even algae growth for biofuels have potential to be grown with electricity production.

The new approach does not change the fast growing residential roof top solar PV market.  Allterra Solar’s CEO, James Allen, added that,

“…this new technology will not negatively affect the existing solar market.  There will still be a market for traditional solar panels in roof top installations.  This technology allows farmers to get the best of both worlds.”

New ideas and approaches are needed to fully utilize California’s potential.  Energy, water, and food all converge in California; and if the Golden State can continue its rich tradition of innovation and adapt technology to work with natural systems and modern economies there is no doubt it will be an example for the world.

The complete article entitled “UCSC’s Solar Breakthrough” by GianCarlo Onorati is available on SantaCruz.com.