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Smart solar panels generate electricity while protecting plants
The technology developed by the startup could also prove beneficial for farmers, especially economically
In Kfar Kara, an Arab village located in northern Israel, the startup Trisolar took up a major challenge: imagine a new, less polluting agriculture, by equipping greenhouses with solar panels capable of adapting to the needs of plants. All while producing electricity. "We have an intelligent crop monitoring system. We use solar panels, bi-facial and semi-transparent. This allows us to optimize the amount of light that the plants receive. The solar panels can tilt from east to west, depending on the information sent by our sensors on the needs of the plant," explained Esther Magadley, technical director and co-founder of Trisolar.
The startup is a spin-off from the Triangle Research Center, established in 1999 to serve Arab communities in northern Israel. Ibrahim Yehia, founder and chief scientist of Trisolar, is a physicist specializing in semiconductors. He is one of the first in the world to have had the idea of putting semi-transparent solar panels inside greenhouses.
His team has just received a fund of $5.8 million from the European Union, in order to launch pilot projects around the world.
"Our research has allowed us to understand what spectrum of light we need to let through to get a good harvest, while maximizing electricity production. We have published more than 20 scientific papers in world-renowned journals, so we are the world's most advanced research facility in this technology. We can certify that the production of energy is compatible with the production of fruits and vegetables," Yehia said.
The technology developed by the startup could also prove beneficial for farmers, especially economically.
"One of the problems for farmers is that they don't have a stable income, they always depend on their harvest and market prices. The production of electricity can guarantee them a stable income throughout the year. We want to encourage the government to subsidize farmers, so that they invest in this system, and thus lower the prices of fruit and vegetables on the market," continued the physicist.
A 2.0 greenhouse that would also make it possible to produce food in arid areas, where agriculture was not possible until now. "In places where the water quality is very poor, and with the electricity we produce, we can desalinate the water and thus irrigate the crops," explained Ronen Katz, CEO and co-founder of Trisolar.
Large-scale pilot projects of these ecological greenhouses will be installed by this summer in Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece.