Adelaide solar panel manufacturer Tindo Solar and the University of NSW hwill work together to develop a novel agriPV solar panel that blends photovoltaic (PV) energy with agricultural function.
The two organisations will build a commercially viable semi-transparent solar module that allows agricultural activities to be located beneath solar panel arrays, blending solar energy production and crop growth.
Most agriPV solutions in northern Europe and Japan rely on spacing the solar cells within the panels, so some light gets through the gaps to generate growth in plants. This is often called ‘shaded’ agriPV.
The UNSW-Tindo agriPV partnership will commercialise a technology breakthrough from the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at UNSW, in which some colours of the light spectrum can pass through a transparent solar panel, while other colours on the spectrum are captured by the solar cells.
This selective capture of photons allows the solar cells to generate power from a larger area of the panel, while other parts of the spectrum can hit plants beneath the panel, promoting growth.
The UNSW’s technology breakthrough is expected to generate a 20 percent higher power-conversion efficiency from the solar panel, than is achieved by the spaced ‘shaded’ technique.
UNSW Associate Professor, Ziv Hameiri said the unshaded solar panel technology generates higher power and better growth outcomes than the shaded technique.
It also aids water management, protects crops from hail and harsh sunlight, and potentially keeps the panel cooler.
Dr Hameiri said: “It allows parts of the spectrum to pass through while the rest of the spectrum is collected by the solar panel.
“This helps us to improve both the agriculture and energy aspects of the system in a ground-mounted field setting and also allows for greenhouses to be constructed from the panels.”
Dr Hameiri said the project had been driven by a team of undergraduate and PhD students, as well as post-doctoral researchers – especially Ms Rosie Pelosi – from the AC/DC Research Group at SPREE (pictured).
He said the technology was at a stage where it could be engineered into a commercially viable format.
“We’re lucky to have a high-quality solar panel manufacturer in Australia, who is keen to partner in developing this product.
“There is a massive demand for an unshaded agriPV solar panel, not only in Australia but all over the world. Having Tindo as a partner allows tuning the system to the needs of the Australian farmers, aiming to address both the food and energy challenges.”
CEO of Tindo Solar Shayne Jaenisch said the company was enthused about working with UNSW on the agriPV panel, at the manufacturer’s $11 million innovation and manufacturing facility in the north of Adelaide.
Picture: Tindo SolarUNSW