Using sunlight to generate energy without filling the greenhouse with solar panels. With this idea, Lucas de Groot recently won first prize in the Cleantech Challenge.
“In the energy agreement, the Dutch government also requires glasshouse horticulture to reduce energy demand. This can be achieved by using less energy or by generating energy. The known solutions for generating energy, such as wind turbines and solar panels, are not ideal for this sector. Windmills provide drop shadow and you cannot lay solar panels on top of the greenhouse," says Lucas.
Generate energy above the crop
A solar concentrator should offer a solution. “The grower hangs the concentrators just under the roof. The incoming light is ‘split’: active light is converted into electrical and thermal energy via a small solar panel, while diffuse light feeds the crop. The grower can use the energy that is generated or deliver it back to the grid."
From plan to product
Lucas carried out his graduation assignment at the Sustainable Energy Lectorate of the Hogeschool Arnhem and Nijmegen. “There were plans to develop a solar concentrator for greenhouse horticulture. I was trained as an industrial product designer and so I started to turn that idea into a real product. For example, I thought about the implementation, the production costs and the payback time. According to my calculations, that payback period is twelve years."
Winning the battle earned Lucas € 3,000. “I'm investigating whether I can now set up a start-up to further develop the product. The first step would then be a test setup with which I can check whether my calculations are correct."
The Cleantech Battle stems from the Cleantech Challenges of the Cleantech Center. Companies can submit their questions in the field of sustainable technology to the Cleantech Center. These Challenges are deployed at various educational institutions in the east of the Netherlands. The students come up with possible solutions, which should above all be feasible in practice. In the annual Cleantech Battle, the best ideas compete for the main prize. But the Challenges and the Battle do more. They also put the students on the map: the previous three winners of the Cleantech Battle all went on to start their own company.
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Lucas de Groot