New Solar Cell Promises Revolution in Energy Efficiency

By Hamodia Staff

The Halutziot solar power plant in the Eshkol Regional Council, the Negev. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

YERUSHALAYIM — Scientists in Israel have announced a breakthrough in the production of a solar cell whose efficiency promises to transform solar energy and agriculture.

The new solar cells are based on perovskite crystals and are produced in a relatively straightforward process using cheap and available materials. A chemical substitution makes the solar cells transparent to the most efficient area of the light spectrum that drives photosynthesis, while a great part of the rest of the light energy is transformed into electricity.

Prof. Lioz Etgar of the Institute of Chemistry at Hebrew University explains: “For years, it has been obvious that most light energy in agricultural greenhouses is wasted, as plants use only a fraction of the sunlight energy, while the rest is radiated back into the atmosphere. In greenhouses, it becomes heat energy, that growers need to get rid of during most months of the year. Our solution maximizes the production of solar electricity on agricultural land by up to 300%.”

The new cells are expected to have much lower production costs than silicon-based photovoltaic cells, and will also significantly improve cultivation conditions in greenhouses by reducing heat, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and evapotranspiration, saving water, and protecting crops from weather damage, as well as offering partial protection from pests and disease.

Prof. Haim Rabinowitch of the HU Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, who worked with Etgar on the project, said: “This new development, which can be installed over any agricultural lands and any bodies of water, will make it possible to fully replace the roofs of most agricultural greenhouses, reduce heat levels and evapotranspiration in orchards and fields, and impairment of many fresh-water and coastal marine ecosystems on which rafts or islands of solar cells are installed.”

Calculations based on current data indicate that the use of these new cells will reduce the price of energy by per kWh in Israel by a staggering 75%, which will lower agricultural costs and increase agricultural income and profitability.

Israel has a total of around 90,000 dunams (22,000 acres) of greenhouses. Covering the roofs of half of these with the new solar cells will provide a quantity of green electricity that enable Israel to exceed its 2050 national targets for green electricity production and carbon emission reduction.

To give an idea of the vast economic potential of this development, the Mediterranean basin alone holds around 2 million dunams (.49 million acres) of greenhouses.

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