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EGEB: How transparent solar panels could make greenhouses net zero

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Transparent solar panels might make greenhouses energy-neutral in the future, says a new study.
  • The House Republicans’ released their big climate-change ‘plan’: Carbon capture and trees.
  • Martha’s Vineyard offshore wind farm is delayed due to federal political wrangling.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Energy-neutral greenhouses

Greenhouses, especially large-scale greenhouses, require energy to keep them at an ideal temperature to prolong the growing season, and that costs money. But greenhouses are effective for agriculture because, among other reasons, the need for pesticides is low as they’re closed, and water use is often lower due to lack of evaporation and runoff.

A new study released by engineering, plant biology, and physics researchers at North Carolina State University reports that greenhouses could become net zero in some climates by using semitransparent organic solar cells made of plastics to harvest energy, thus furthering eco-friendly agriculture.

Brendan O’Connor, one of the study’s authors, said:

Plants only use some wavelengths of light for photosynthesis, and the idea is to create greenhouses that make energy from that unused light while allowing most of the photosynthetic band of light to pass through.

A semitransparent solar panel can let particular wavelengths of light into a greenhouse that plants need, and they’re thin and lightweight. They reflect infrared light, so they help keep greenhouses cooler in the summer and warmer in winter. However, they’re not as efficient as silicon solar cells and have a shorter lifespan, so more improvement is needed.

The study was conducted in greenhouses in which tomatoes were grown in Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

In Arizona, the solar greenhouses could be energy neutral while only blocking 10% of the sun that the plants need. In North Carolina, the greenhouse would block 20% of the sun to be energy-neutral. In Wisconsin, greenhouses could not achieve zero-energy use, but could still cut a greenhouse’s energy bills in half.

Embedded photo: North Carolina State University

Delay to first large-scale US offshore wind farm

The $2.8 billion, 800MW, 84-turbine Vineyard Wind, the first large-scale US offshore wind farm, is delayed again due to federal infighting. It is expected to be sited around 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and 35 miles off mainland Massachusetts.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was supposed to make a decision in August last year, but it delayed a ruling amid reports of ongoing concerns from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Reuters reported on the two departments’ disagreements in July 2019, and they clearly have not yet resolved their differences.

Vineyard Wind intended to start construction in 2019 and have the wind farm online by 2022. The new deadline for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is December 18, 2020, and final permits for the project are now expected to be issued by mid-March 2021.

On Tuesday, Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said:

We have received updated information from the Department of Interior that indicates the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Vineyard Wind I project will be published later than what was previously anticipated.

While we need to analyze what a longer permitting timeline will mean for beginning construction, commercial operation in 2022 is no longer expected. We look forward to the clarity that will come with a final EIS so that Vineyard Wind can deliver this project to Massachusetts and kick off the new US offshore energy industry.

Republican climate-change ‘plan’

US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced climate-change legislative proposals yesterday in an attempt to shift the Republican party’s message on climate change from nothing to something.

The Republican’s four bills encourage planting trees, providing a tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration, and want to fund research and development of carbon capture and utilization technology.

They propose no targets — either with dates or quantities — for reducing emissions. Neither do they propose incentives for green energy, or reductions in subsidies for fossil fuels.

The Republican Party is discovering that the general public  — to include Republicans — actually cares about climate change, and that’s a serious conundrum for the party of climate-change denial and fossil-fuel supporters, led by a president who hates wind turbines.

You can read Electrek‘s take on these bills here.

Main photo: Abigail Lynn/Unsplash

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.