ASX-listed ClearVue Technologies has completed construction of a “world-first” clear solar glass greenhouse in Western Australia that will demonstrate both the Perth company’s integrated solar glass product and its potential to advance cutting edge agricultural research.
The solar greenhouse was officially launched on Monday afternoon at its site at the Murdoch University’s new grains research precinct at its South Street campus, south of Perth.
The world-leading facility will use three different versions of ClearVue’s transparent solar PV glazing panels to power two research fronts: new plant breeding technologies and solar greenhouse energy generation.
On the latter front, the ClearVue greenhouse’s area of 3000m² is expected to generate roughly 0.25MWh of solar energy a day, which is the equivalent to installing a 60kW solar farm, or enough to power around 12 average households.
The technology works by using nano technology to internally diffuse and reflect elements of sunlight towards the edges of an integrated glass unit’s frame, where it is collected by silicon based PV modules. Current efficiency of the IGU is 3.3%, measured at standard test conditions.
On the agricultural front, the clear glass will let in natural sunlight, while using the unwanted UV and IR light wavelengths – which can be harmful to plants – to covert into power and thus allowing the plants to put all of their energy towards growth, rather than sun protection.
According to a presentation on the Perth greenhouse, the use of the solar glass is expected to boost plant growth rate by 20-30%, compared to standard greenhouses.
ClearVue says a large proportion of the energy generated by the clear solar glass will be used to power the greenhouse’s microclimate control system, which incorporates a range of sensors that record real time data on temperature, humidity and the amount of sunlight plants are getting.
Leading the agricultural research will be Murdoch University’s internationally renowned geneticist Chengdao Li, who is looking to develop new plant breeding technologies and integrate them to produce commercial crop varieties.
ClearVue executive chair, Victor Rosenberg said his company was “particularly proud” to be working with Professor Li to improve global environment, food and health outcomes.
“We are confident that the ability to control the microclimate within the ClearVue greenhouse will create an optimum growing environment to achieve higher yields,” Rosenberg said in an ASX statement.
“Leafy plants require protection from harmful UV rays in the same way humans need to protect their skin. …The ClearVue IGU glazing blocks these UV rays so, the energy required by plants to create a protective layer on leafy vegetables can be preserved to growing bigger, tastier, fresher produce which leads to improved yields and quality of produce.
“The research we will undertake with Professor Li is intended to demonstrate and confirm this hypothesis,” Rosenberg said.
The launch of the greenhouse is a major milestone for ClearVue, giving the company’s stock price a nice boost to an all-time high of 96c a share in trading on Tuesday morning, up from 70c at the start of the week.
It is underscored by a deal ClearVue signed last week with Japanese green-housing company Tomita Technologies, for the sale and marketing of the PV integrated glass for use in greenhouses and protected cropping agriculture in Japan.
As the company noted in its release, however, the greenhouse is just one application for the ClearVue technology, which has so far also been applied to bus shelters, a shopping centre atrium and residential buildings, among other applications.
The greenhouse research project was backed by a $1.6 million grant from the federal government’s AusIndustry Research Centre Projects program, while construction was completed with the assistance of the Edith Cowan University and its construction partner, blanc.