Scientists at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy have proposed to combine vertical farming with solar power generation from PV greenhouses in an effort to increase land utilization.
They defined solar greenhouses as “closed agrivoltaics (CA),” which would be a form of agrivoltaic project in which power generation and food production are implemented in a protected environment.
“All common horticultural crops grow with none or limited yield losses when the percentage of the projection of the PV panels on the roof to the greenhouse area (PV cover ratio) is under 20%,” the researchers specified. “We propose an alternative approach to increase the agricultural sustainability of the CA with the experimental integration of the vertical farm (VF) technology, characterized by yields, light and resource use efficiency consistently higher than conventional greenhouses.”
They also emphasized that vertical farming utilizes use light-emitting diodes (LED) to achieve high photosynthetic use efficiency and year-round production in the plants, noting that PV is a perfect solution to reduce the impact of the LEDs' high energy consumption on project viability.
The Italian group sought to assess, in particular, the land productivity, the PV area, and the electricity required by an experimental VFCA system with a cover ratio of 100%. “The yield was quantified on green and red baby-leaf lettuce varieties, adopting four lighting treatments, expressed as Daily Light Integral (DLI) and compared to a control CA,” it explained.
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