Spinach grown with solar panels could offer a low carbon and low cost strategy to produce crops in the desert.
That’s the suggestion by Peng Wang, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia who spoke to ELN about a solar scheme that grows spinach by pulling in water vapour from the air.
The system is based on the atmospheric water adsorption-desorption cycle to generate cooling power for photovoltaic cells to increase their electricity generation performance and produce water to support crop growth.
During a three-month outdoor field test, the new system successfully reduced the temperature of PV panels by up to 17°C and increased their electricity generation by up to 9.9% in the PV cooling mode.
It also produced water to spinach hosted in an integrated plant-growing unit in Saudi Arabia.
Professor Wang said: “As we all know solar energy is an essential component of our global sustainability.
“Nowadays, photo vortex of PV panel is the most popular way of converting solar energy to generate electricity. However, the PV panel has a serious problem, commercial PV panels have energy efficiency between 10% and 20%.
“It means that those panels will have 80% to 90% of the solar energy the panel absorbs to be converted to heat. Heat reduces the electricity generation performance and also shortens the lifetime of the panel.”