A Chinese-Qatari research group has assessed the potential of integrating PV power generation with hydroponic farms (SAHFs), which are a kind of horticultural crops that do not use soil and utilize mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent, usually in greenhouses or closed spaces. “Hydroponic systems provide water-efficient food production but they are not an energy-efficient solution,” the scientists explained. “This is because they require electricity for heating and cooling, ventilation, irrigation, LED lighting, and other horticultural practices to maintain the hydroponic farm operations in controlled environments.”
The scientists investigated, in particular, how a multi-period, electricity-intensive hydroponic crop production system may be coupled to a PV system under different incentive policies such as feed-in tariff (FIT) programs, rebate schemes, net metering and improving electricity tariff (IET) mechanisms, which consist of simply raising electricity prices for consumers or reducing existing subsidies to the electricity price.
Their approach considered various factors impacting PV system efficiency, including environmental factors, the type of solar array, and the electricity demand from the SAHF. A series of experiments were conducted assuming SAHF operations in Qatar. This framework should provide SAHF developers with enough information to ascertain if a PV system should be installed and which type of solar modules should be used, as well as for identifying optimal sizing and capacity.
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The proposed model was described in the paper “Decisions on design and planning of solar-assisted hydroponic farms under various subsidy schemes,” published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.