Environmental and Economic Impacts of Solar‐Powered Integrated Greenhouses

14 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020

See all articles by Joseph A. Hollingsworth

Joseph A. Hollingsworth

North Carolina State University

Eshwar Ravishankar

North Carolina State University

Brendan O’Connor

North Carolina State University

Jeremiah X. Johnson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Natural Resources & Environment

Joseph F. DeCarolis

North Carolina State University

Date Written: February 2020

Abstract

Greenhouse vegetable production plays a vital role in providing year‐round fresh vegetables to global markets, achieving higher yields, and using less water than open‐field systems, but at the expense of increased energy demand. This study examines the life cycle environmental and economic impacts of integrating semitransparent organic photovoltaics (OPVs) into greenhouse designs. We employ life cycle assessment to analyze six environmental impacts associated with producing greenhouse‐grown tomatoes in a Solar PoweRed INtegrated Greenhouse (SPRING) compared to conventional greenhouses with and without an adjacent solar photovoltaic array, across three distinct locations. The SPRING design produces significant reductions in environmental impacts, particularly in regions with high solar insolation and electricity‐intensive energy demands. For example, in Arizona, global warming potential values for a conventional, adjacent PV and SPRING greenhouse are found to be 3.71, 2.38, and 2.36 kg CO eq/kg tomato, respectively. Compared to a conventional greenhouse, the SPRING design may increase life cycle environmental burdens in colder regions because the shading effect of OPV increases heating demands. Our analysis shows that SPRING designs must maintain crop yields at levels similar to conventional greenhouses in order to be economically competitive. Assuming consistent crop yields, uncertainty analysis shows average net present cost of production across Arizona to be $3.43, $3.38, and $3.64 per kg of tomato for the conventional, adjacent PV and SPRING system, respectively.

Keywords: food systems, greenhouse, industrial ecology, life cycle assessment (LCA), organic solar cells, sustainable agriculture

Suggested Citation

Hollingsworth, Joseph A. and Ravishankar, Eshwar and O’Connor, Brendan and Johnson, Jeremiah X. and DeCarolis, Joseph F., Environmental and Economic Impacts of Solar‐Powered Integrated Greenhouses (February 2020). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 24, Issue 1, pp. 234-247, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3608862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12934

Joseph A. Hollingsworth (Contact Author)

North Carolina State University

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Eshwar Ravishankar

North Carolina State University

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Brendan O’Connor

North Carolina State University

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Jeremiah X. Johnson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Natural Resources & Environment ( email )

440 Church St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Joseph F. DeCarolis

North Carolina State University

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Downloads
2
Abstract Views
317
PlumX Metrics