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Students build solar greenhouse that produces energy

Traditional greenhouses typically use a ton of energy to work properly, but students in Catalonia have built a solar powered structure that creates energy rather than consuming it.

Who says greenhouses can’t adapt to modern energy needs?

First built in the nineteenth century, greenhouses are a nifty way to grow plants and produce our own flowers, but they usually use lots of energy to function.

Students in Barcelona have created a solution to this problem with a new, LED solar powered greenhouse that produces more energy than it needs. Now you can get your gardening game on and generate electricity, though it is only in the prototype stage.

Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency

Built from locally sourced pine timber, this 130-square-foot greenhouse is situated in Sierra de Collserola Natural Park and was developed during a master’s program at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. Try saying that three times fast.

While this prototype is a more traditional looking greenhouse, the core components can be recreated anywhere. This means that you could build this solar-powered structure on rooftops, in refugee camps, and anywhere else where basic needs such as food and energy can be hard to source.

All that’s well and good, but how does it work? This prototype has two floors, with plants first germinating on the lower level before growing out into the top area. It has an angled roof that captures sunlight during the day, while LED and UV lights are used for lettuces, tomatoes, and eggplants at night.

Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency

The roof has solar panels laid out in a chequered pattern and an irrigation system helps to increase the speed in which plants grow, all operating via the power of the sun. The greenhouse only uses half of the energy it produces, with the rest being used by the Valldura Labs facility nearby.

This project was completed in September 2021, and local greenhouse makers are already using data gathered from this experiment to inform their own constructions. Guallart Architects in Barcelona says it has used some of the design philosophies from this structure in a much bigger development – a greenhouse that will be 29 feet high.

Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency

Company owner, Guallart, says that it’s possible to produce our own energy locally, we just need to adapt. ‘We need to make our buildings focused [on solar energy]’, he says.

Changing the way we think about our electricity could have huge implications, both in terms of carbon emissions and our reliance on imported gas and oil. The more of us using solar power to generate our own supplies, the better chance we have of truly converting to clean energy.

It’ll take time, of course, but greenhouse projects like this prove that self-sustained buildings are not simply a pipe dream.


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