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Semi-Transparent Organic Photovoltaics Applied as Greenhouse Shade for Spring and Summer Tomato Production in Arid Climate

Recognizing the growing interest in the application of organic photovoltaics (OPVs) with greenhouse crop production systems, in this study we used flexible, roll-to-roll printed, semitransparent OPV arrays as a roof shade for a greenhouse hydroponic tomato production system during a spring and summer production season in the arid southwestern U.S. The wavelength-selective OPV arrays were installed in a contiguous area on a section of the greenhouse roof, decreasing the transmittance of all solar radiation wavelengths and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) wavelengths to the OPV-shaded area by approximately 40% and 37%, respectively. Microclimate conditions and tomato crop growth and yield parameters were measured in both the OPV-shaded (‘OPV’) and non-OPV-shaded (‘Control’) sections of the greenhouse. The OPV shade stabilized the canopy temperature during midday periods with the highest solar radiation intensities, performing the function of a conventional shading method. Although delayed fruit development and ripening in the OPV section resulted in lower total yields compared to the Control section, after the fourth (of 10 total) harvests, the average weekly yield, fruit number, and fruit mass were not significantly different between the treatment (OPV-shaded) and control group. Light use efficiency (LUE), defined as the ratio of total fruit yield to accumulated PAR received by the plant canopy, was nearly twice as high as the Control section, with 21.4 g of fruit per mole of PAR for plants in the OPV-covered section compared to 10.1 g in the Control section. Overall, this study demonstrated that the use of semi-transparent OPVs as a seasonal shade element for greenhouse production in a high-light region is feasible. However, a higher transmission of PAR and greater OPV device efficiency and durability could make OPV shades more economically viable, providing a desirable solution for co-located greenhouse crop production and renewable energy generation in hot and high-light intensity regions.