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Murdoch University’s Transparent Solar Greenhouse

Image Credits: Murdoch University, Press Release
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Two years after the inauguration of Murdoch University’s clear solar glass greenhouse, the facility has managed to offset nearly 40 percent of its energy consumption. The advanced structure, built in collaboration with an Australian renewable energy semiconductor manufacturing firm, utilised three distinct variants of transparent solar photovoltaic glazing panels to maximise solar energy utilisation.

The findings of a two-year research project, co-authored by Adjunct Associate Lecturer David Goodfield from Murdoch University, indicate that the greenhouse consistently generated energy while significantly reducing facility energy expenses and consumption.

This achievement was made possible by incorporating fluorescent particles into the clear glass solution, which were designed to disperse solar energy towards strategically positioned solar cells. This allowed the capture of solar energy even when the sun was not directly shining on the glass.

The insights gained from this study are poised to contribute to the advancement of solar energy utilization, aligning with Murdoch University’s strategic goal of establishing itself as a renowned centre for sustainability excellence. Dr. Martin Brueckner, the Pro Vice Chancellor of Sustainability at Murdoch University, emphasised that the greenhouse played a crucial role in the university’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. He also pointed out that the greenhouse showcased the potential of innovative materials to enhance the environmental performance of buildings and structures.

Dr. Brueckner underscored the importance of technology, alongside behavioural changes, in the pursuit of future sustainability, acknowledging that it is a pivotal aspect of their sustainability journey. He expressed excitement, particularly in the realm of materials, about the future possibilities and applications in this field.

In 2021, OpenGov Asia reported on this development at Murdoch University. The initiative focused on the installation of transparent solar photovoltaic integrated glass units (IGUs) at the grains research precinct on the university’s campus.

At the time of reporting, OpenGov Asia noted that the greenhouse at Murdoch University used cutting-edge transparent solar glass technology, developed by the company, with the dual purpose of maintaining glass transparency and generating electricity.

This technology was designed to deliver a minimum of 30 watts per square meter while retaining 70% transparency. Each IGU featured solar PV cells positioned around its edges and incorporated advanced components, including a nanoparticle interlayer and a spectral-selective coating on the rear external surface. These components allowed most visible light to pass through while redirecting infrared and UV light to the edges of the IGU, where it could be harnessed by the solar cells.

The CEO of the solar glass developer had expressed optimism about the project’s potential to raise awareness of their building-integrated PV (BIPV) technology. They noted strong global interest from greenhouse suppliers, growers, and other users involved in protected cropping. The completion of the greenhouse’s construction, adjacent to existing research greenhouses, marked a significant milestone for the company.

The greenhouse project had several noteworthy features. First, it was the first commercial-scale demonstration of the company’s PV IGU technology in a protected-cropping agriculture setting. Second, it promised improved temperature control compared to traditional greenhouses, with a narrower temperature range of +/-2° from the optimum, potentially leading to increased plant growth rates of up to 20-30%.

Furthermore, this project had broader implications beyond agriculture. The CEO indicated that it could pave the way for the commercial application of the technology in high-rise commercial buildings, demonstrating the versatility and potential impact of BIPV technology.

Murdoch University’s collaboration with the solar glass developer showcased the integration of advanced solar glass technology into the agricultural research setting, with the greenhouse project poised to contribute to greater market awareness of BIPV technology. This endeavour aligns with Murdoch University’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, as highlighted in the previous information about the university’s clear solar glass greenhouse and sustainability goals.

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