Transparent solar panels for agrivoltaics

From pv magazine France

Swiss research institute Agroscope and energy company Romande Energie are building an agrivoltaic project with the support of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) at a site owned by Agroscope in Conthey, in the canton of Valais, Switzerland.

They are building the project with special transparent concentrator PV panels provided by Swiss startup Insolight. The Theia (Translucency and High Efficiency In Agrivoltaics) modules have an efficiency rating of 30% and purportedly let through up to 78% of sunlight.

“Combining two usage modes based on Insolight’s optical micro-tracking technology, these modules focus light on high-efficiency solar cells,” Insolight said in a press release. “When aligned, the optical system can generate energy (E-MODE), but it is also possible to unalign it to ‘leak’ the light (MLT-MODE). The solar modules therefore act like a ‘smart’ shade adjusting the amount of light they let through.”

This makes it possible to optimize the photosynthesis of plants during the seasons and reduce the negative impact of high summer heat on the yields and quality of agricultural products, while recovering the rest of the light in the form of electricity. Starting from July, the panels will be tested for four years on a 165-square-meter surface area. They will replace protective plastic tunnels on strawberries and raspberries.

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“Dynamically adjusting the light transmitted to the plants paves the way for increased protection from climate variations and possible increases in crop yields thanks to the matching of the light to the needs of the plants and the lowering of the temperature during heat waves via the shading effect,” said Bastien Christ, head of the berries and medicinal plants group at Agroscope.

pv magazine has previously reported on Insolight‘s module technology. The company – founded by three researchers from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne – has developed panels that rely on expensive III-V multi-junction solar cells from an undisclosed manufacturer.

The cells only cover 0.5% of the panel surface and are covered with protective glass and optical lenses to concentrate and direct sunlight onto them at around 100 times the intensity of standard solar glass. The cells are reportedly able to track the sun through horizontal movement.

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