The unfolding of this technology has involved the innovation of scientists with drastically varied expertise. With collaboration between UC Santa Cruz, NASA, all types of growers, and Silicon Valley, this project continues to be an inspiring manifestation of teamwork driven by a shared vision of how we can work together to shift our energy uses from fossil fuel to clean, renewable resources that support a sustainable future.
The development of wavelength selective photovoltaics (WSPV) was born in the renewable energy Physics Research Laboratory of Professor Sue A. Carter at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It was developed with the goal of finding innovative new ways to include Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) into a scalable model for power production. While semi-transparent power generating windows hold widely applicable potential, the greenhouse application held an especially alluring quality. The sheer massive scale became apparent upon closer analysis, as commercial greenhouse growers speak in terms of acres rather than square feet.
The research question was clear: How can we create a material that has neutral effects on plants, while generating enough power to make it economically interesting? In developing the technology, we sought to create a product with the highest efficiency and most attractive design with the additional central necessity of optimal plant growth. This sparked collaboration with plant physiologists and greenhouse growers as our first plant growth trial, run primarily by Physicists, made our need for varied expertise especially clear.