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This solar greenhouse could change the way we eat

Greenhouses have a long list of benefits: higher food production, less water use, potentially less pesticide use, a year-round growing season. There’s a problem: they’re expensive, both to install and to operate. But thanks to solar technology developed at UC Santa Cruz, greenhouses are enjoying a new moment in the sun.

Soliculture, a company based on technology developed in the Thin-Film Optoelectronics Laboratory of physics professor Sue Carter, has been busy explaining to growers the benefits of using their solar panels on greenhouses.

“To put it simply,” said Glenn Alers, CEO of Soliculture, “Soliculture panels allow more power, more produce, more profits.”

The panels themselves are not what you expect when you imagine a solar panel: they’re translucent, and they’re a bright shade of magenta.

The solar panels developed in Carter’s lab absorbed green light and emitted red light to enhance the power generation of the solar cell — and the excess red light happened to fall exactly in the range of the spectrum that plants use.

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