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Jacob Chambers

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Retrofitting greenhouses to make them more viable for desert agricultural production

From his talk I derived that the flexible PV material, that is soon to come out on the market, could be implemented in greenhouse designs possibly with great effect. I am proposing replacing standard glass used for the flexible PV material in a traditional hoop style/ semicircle. The ability to collect the energy from the sun could be used to power LED lighting systems that would provide the spectrum of light necessary to each specific crop. Drawing upon his ambient temperature idea I would like to also postulate that using a system of pipes run underneath the greenhouses would be capable of creating ambient temperatures suitable to crops. In colder deserts would it be possible to tap geo-thermal energy and use the same pipes that cools the greenhouses to also heat them? I viewed an interesting TED talk that discussed greenhouses that captured ocean mists for cooling and water with great effect and believe that their design could be implemented with the PV and ambient temperature designs. Thoughts and comments are greatly appreciate and most important thank you for your time.

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  • Jun 29 2012: I want to thank everyone for the great feedback. The first comment I would like to address is the water issue. If the greenhouses were close to ocean shores I believe that a system discussed in this talk would work for a water collection system though maybe only partially.http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_pawlyn_using_nature_s_genius_in_architecture.html . From this talk it seems possible from their discoveries that terraforming deserts could be a not so distant future. If ocean mists are not available then tapping an aquifer would be necessary and responsible irrigation could ensure the protection of the aquifer.
    As for the lighting issue, I currently attend Purdue University and have witnessed first hand their implementation of LED lighting in agricultural production http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/agnews/public/story.asp?newsid=3033. The idea behind using the flexible PV for covering greenhouses is to cut down on heat transfer into the greenhouses. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20078431-1/mit-demos-flexible-solar-panels-printed-on-paper/ . By reducing this heat transfer you would be creating a more ambient temperature while installing the proper infrastructure to control the greenhouse climate.
    I really liked the idea of using both warm and cool greenhouses for climate control. What about implementing a control system that could use backdrafts, negative and positive pressures and convection in the pursuit of a stable greenhouse climate? Also I'd like to hear more on using a reservoir or piping for climate control. Robert, I looked into the Biosphere project and it is extremely interesting. They are doing studies a little bit more grandiose in scope than this discussion but I can see the relation quite clearly. I would recommend anyone not familiar with the Arizona Biosphere project look into it. Thanks for the input, keep it coming.

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