Novel agrivoltaic array tech for greenhouses
An Israeli startup is commercializing crop-responsive PV trackers for greenhouses. The system includes a tracking structure, a motor, a controller, and specially designed solar panels.
DECEMBER 13, 2022 EMILIANO BELLINI
Israeli startup Trisolar, a spinoff of the Triangle Research and Development Center (TRDC), has launched a new plug-and-play PV system technology for applications in agrivoltaic projects and greenhouses.“ It is a crop-responsive PV tracking system for inside greenhouses,” the company's founder and CTO, Dr. Esther Magadley, told pv magazine. “It is commercialized including the tracking structure, motor, controller and the specially designed solar panels.” The modules are bifacial products manufactured by an unspecified producer, based on specifications provided by Trisolar.“ They are smaller and lighter than standard PV modules and are semi-transparent, with a transparent back sheet and spaces between cells,” Dr. Magadley explained. “Parts of the system are assembled before its deployment, making the installation inside the greenhouse as easy as possible. ”The system features a programmable logic controller (PLC) type controller to alter the angles of the tracking system, so the plants get the level of light or shading they require for optimal growth performance.“ In greenhouses with coverings that ensure diffuse light, the use of bifacial panels ensures healthy generation of electricity even in low light conditions,” Dr. Magadley said, noting that the system also eliminates the need to shade crops in the summer. The company says the system is designed to be built with one-fifth of the labor needed to install conventional PV systems. It can also be installed in a broad range of climates. The company claims the system can also be used for a wide range of purposes, including desalination and cooling.
“As far as we know we are the only group that has worked with agronomists consistently over the last five years and as a result have demonstrated over a large number of studies exactly how our system can generate substantial amounts of power without any damage at all to agricultural yields,” Magadley added. “Our system is price competitive with ground mounted PV installations and delivers the power with a far lower carbon footprint than any other system on the market.” The company has so far built several demonstrators in Israel. “Results from our trials showed an increase in fruit weight and number of fruit produced in the greenhouse,” Dr. Magadley said. “This shows that crop yields are either not affected or even improved when our system is used inside a greenhouse.” In January, the Triangle Research and Development Center unveiled research showing how organic PV modules could power polytunnel greenhouses. It found that such panels might offer advantages over conventional crystalline silicon, despite their lower efficiency rates. Dr. Magadley said at the time that organic PV solutions can be semitransparent, or come in different colors with different spectral transmittance properties. They transmit as much of the light spectrum as needed for plant growth, while using the other parts of the light spectrum for electricity production. “We can produce electricity without affecting crop growth,” said Dr. Magadley.