Dutch workshop covers excess energy capture

Harnessing excess solar energy from glasshouse roofs to turn into electricity was the topic of a Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture workshop in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands, earlier this month as part of the Kas als Energiebron (Glasshouse as Energy Source) programme.

Glass: methods for harnessing excess solar energy covered by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture workshop - image: Myxi
Glass: methods for harnessing excess solar energy covered by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture workshop - image: Myxi

According to Wageningen researcher Bram van Breughel: "A possibility to realise this is by placing thin strips of solar cells at the edges of the glass to concentrate light there by applying a fluorescent coating on top of the glass. Then light will be absorbed and guided to the edges, to be converted into electric power."

Researchers from several Dutch research institutions explained a variety of approaches to the task currently in development. These ranged from the slightly whimsical example developed at Utrecht University of multicoloured stained glass solar panels inspired by the works of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian, which converts roughly half a per cent of the captured sunlight into electricity, to solar energy-generating translucent roadside noise barriers being developed by Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands.

"For horticulture this can be very selectively used to convert UV-radiation into PAR-light and electricity, or a removable fluorescent layer could possibly be developed and applied during the summer months," added van Breughel. "Currently we are not near this stage, but during the meeting the possibilities for horticulture were made very clear and several parties indicated that work will surely continue on this."

Also within the programme a project began at Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture this month to investigate variants of the high-wire V format for growing cucumbers. A range of stem densities and upper leaf picking regimes - from zero to one-third removal - are being applied to see whether more efficient use of light, lower respiration and higher yield can be achieved.

Using Nunhems' modern Hi Power F1 variety, the study draws on a similar Wageningen study of the effect of upper leaf removal on tomatoes, begun last summer and still ongoing.

A separate study on cucumbers in the same programme, investigating winter production in the prototype high-insulation 2SaveEnergyKas glasshouse in Bleiswijk, has yielded its first 18kg of produce from a 30 per cent lower energy consumption than would conventionally be required. The glasshouse transmits 10 per cent more winter light due to a film coating on the glass. But in order to best harness this a range of growing formats have been trialled.

Funded equally by the Dutch government and industry body LTO Glaskracht, Kas als Energiebron this month also marked its 10th anniversary with an upbeat review meeting of industry, government and media figures. As a result "continuation of the programme is to be expected", said the organisers.


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