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danielravennest t1_j4vkt5p wrote

Plants are only about 2% efficient in converting sunlight to usable energy. Solar panels are now commercially available at 22% efficiency.

Most plants don't use sunlight over 10% of the daily peak intensity. So it is quite feasible to do "agrisolar", where panels take most of the sunlight first, and plants below use the rest. This can be either outdoors or in greenhouses with solar roofs.


way2lazy2care t1_j4vnvkc wrote

This is just a study to see if this effect happened at all, but I think the long term benefit of using plants would be that they can construct themselves. Very little manufacturing involved.


[deleted] t1_j4vwwnr wrote



AdagioAffectionate66 t1_j4x412j wrote

Only if there’s money to be made! Otherwise……


CirenOtter t1_j4xwsrx wrote

Eventually even the capitalists will figure out that a living planet is more profitable long term than a dead planet… right? Right?!


jtwFlosper t1_j4ygt1v wrote

I fear you are underestimating the effect that wealth has at generating narcissism, and the effect narcissism has at distorting perception


Looluee t1_j4zemz8 wrote

Don't put the blame on your everyday capitalist lmao.


danielravennest t1_j4vp8fq wrote

Plants should be used to grow things they are good at, like lumber and food. There are plenty of rooftops and parking lots that can do solar without using any more land, and agrisolar can share land with plants. Trying to make electricity at low efficiency with plants is a waste of space that can be put to better uses.


Hours-of-Gameplay t1_j4vzb8y wrote

Yea plants taking up space and also providing oxygen, gross


crazicus t1_j4wf8hs wrote

Monoculture crops for production at scale are far less effective at producing oxygen or sequestering carbon dioxide than native habitats.


Nearatree t1_j4y7of3 wrote

Ahnd they dun sucked up all my water so I can't make nesquik


Shilo788 t1_j4w4tk0 wrote

Very narrow minded. Plants have much more to offer.


[deleted] t1_j4vyffg wrote



danielravennest t1_j4w14f2 wrote

You've watched The Matrix too many times. Using humans as batteries is an energy-losing proposition.


way2lazy2care t1_j4w5twk wrote

It's only a waste of space if you can meaningfully use that space. In the article they were using succulents, so in theory you could just plop a handful of these in the desert and wait for them to spread. If you're already installing solar at manufacturing capacity, there's no downside to also having solar that can manufacture itself in situ with no labor also.


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way2lazy2care t1_j4wzckp wrote

> Plants, on a large scale and reasonable times, generally can't construct themselves

Compared to manufacturing PV panels they do. Like the scale isn't even comparable. A handful of people can farm a couple thousand acres, where an equivalent solar farm would be on the scale of the largest solar farms in the world. The power output wouldn't be similar, but in terms of effort involved in covering a large area with power generation, the speed you could grow plants is like orders of magnitude in difference. Not to mention that individual plants can provide thousands of seeds which you could then use to propogate thousands more acres.


Box-o-bees t1_j4vqnbt wrote

>Plants are only about 2% efficient in converting sunlight

I wonder how much faster they would grow if it was increased to say 22%? Would be a crazy cool experiment.


danielravennest t1_j4w0lq5 wrote

They simply can't. The best that can be done is about 6% for photosynthetic bacteria, who don't need to waste energy making cell walls, roots, and other defining features of plants. Genetically modified bacteria have been made that emit ethanol and diesel molecules, but that only becomes competitive at about $100/barrel for petroleum. Prices haven't been high enough for long enough to get that industry off the ground, and attempts to make the process cheaper have stalled.


ss3423 t1_j4w6e4p wrote

This doesn't account for heating effects, plants don't just absorb light for component production and aren't the most efficient solar gathering organisms.


-over9000- t1_j4x5vfi wrote

Yeah! We can even tune it so the solar panels use the light that the plants don't need this way!


danielravennest t1_j50dvx7 wrote

Silicon panels, which are like 96% of the market, use the whole solar spectrum, from near infra-red to near UV. But they are not completely opaque, some light gets through the cells. For open field solar farms, there are spaces between the rows of panels.


mde132 t1_j4zl47c wrote

True. Also, now we have proof of concept and can hand it over to the GMO experts to see what they come up with.

Also, if they found some sort of self duplicating hybrid bacteria whatever then we essentially only have to manufacture the encasement etc, not mine the earth... Which is better environmentally, and may have a net lower $/watt production cost in the end with lower efficiency over larger areas. Who knows, it's only proof of concept so far.

Lots of possibilities :)


MagicaItux t1_j4vnwx8 wrote

Maybe there's a reason it looks like only 2%. The heat from the solar rays for example could help it's capillary system to suck moisture out of the ground (an intensive process).


danielravennest t1_j4vph7b wrote

The wikipedia article has a breakdown of the efficiency losses. Please go look at it.


GioTekk t1_j4vtpda wrote

Capillary uses a law of physics, the water essentially sucks itself if I'm not mistaken


Xifihas t1_j4vdm3m wrote

So, which corporation is going to buy the rights to this just to prevent development?


ee3k t1_j4vlabl wrote

nah, they'll pave paradise and put up a Photosynthesis plant


Newpocky t1_j4ww0mm wrote

Finally, the Trigun plants will be a reality!


nowthengoodbad t1_j4w01p5 wrote

True story:

We're parenting our core agtech innovation to stop exactly that. Once the process is a little further along, we will be licensing it out for something like $1 to small farmers and local community members who want to grow fresh food at low cost compared to current ag companies (large farms, indoor ag, etc).

Unfortunately, the patenting process is slow, but at least it's a first to file system.

Edit: I may have miscommunicated - we have a different agtech innovation than that which is talked about in the article, but I'm using us as an example of innovators who are being mindful and deliberate of protecting the technology so that big companies can't simply stop people from using it or charge exorbitant amounts for it. We DO exist.

Imagine doing what Shkreli did except you're buying the pharmaceutical to charge less, not more, and to hold the rights so that you can sue other companies trying to copy your drug if they attempt to overprice it.

What shkreli did is a great example of the dangers of capitalism, but what we are trying to do is demonstrate profitability with widespread accessibility at a reasonable cost to those who otherwise couldn't afford something like this. Our tech costs 1/5 and less the current comparable solutions and requires zero reoccurring costs while comparable solutions can have expensive reoccurring costs.


joanzen t1_j50woa0 wrote

You're clearly getting just the right amount of education from social media, news headlines, and movies to make these well thought out and completely logical suggestions.


GokuBob t1_j4v3eq1 wrote

Science, bitch.


TheWhiteLancer t1_j4vgf0a wrote

So they made a potato battery? If I propose I make a lemon battery, but I leave it on the tree, will that get me grant funding too?


TheWingus t1_j4vl5r6 wrote

Or perhaps a lemon that explodes and burns down your house!!


TexacoRandom t1_j4vlmm2 wrote

"Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!"


Current-Power-6452 t1_j4w6di3 wrote

If life gives you lemons just got a whole new meaning


SnipingNinja t1_j4wxlbe wrote

They're quoting Cave Johnson from portal 2 game, he said that in context of life giving lemons


thisisnotdan t1_j4vo1w3 wrote

It does look suspiciously like a potato battery! Those batteries consume the anode, though, so the power they "generate" actually comes at the cost of the metal you stick into them. The potato just enables you to harness the power of rusting.. According to the abstract of the paper linked in the article, though:

> The addition of the photosystem II inhibitor 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea inhibits the photocurrent, indicating that water oxidation is the primary source of electrons in the light.

If I'm reading this right, it means that, rather than consuming the iron anode like a potato battery would, the water molecules themselves are "consumed," producing hydrogen gas (and maybe oxygen gas?).

Biological systems are complex, though, and I've never even fully understood how a regular battery works (to my own satisfaction; I passed college physics courses well enough), so I could be understanding this incorrectly.

EDIT: At the risk of being even more wrong, it looks like (based on the diagram shown next to the abstract) what's happening is that the electrodes in the leaf are "short-circuiting" the normal photosynthesis process by catalyzing a reaction of NADH (an important molecule in photosynthesis) that generates capturable electricity and releases hydrogen gas as a byproduct.


Madgick t1_j4vrgtx wrote

Thanks for doing some more digging. honestly the article is pretty shoddy. The reference image looks like someone labelled a jpeg of a science fair project in MS Paint. It was especially disappointing after the green battery looking image that opens the article.

So at least (if they're correct) the power is coming directly from photosynthesis rather than just some degradation of the materials used.

It's interesting at least, but it's still pretty useless if you'd have to wire up a whole plant leaf to leaf for it to become scalable as they suggested.


crablegs_aus t1_j4vlop1 wrote

Yeah this was far more low tech than I expected it to be…


Still_D-siding t1_j4vgja9 wrote

This is step one towards the full scale bio battery, powered by flesh and blood. The rich don’t need to manipulate you into labor if your existence powers their lifestyle without argument.


MagicaItux t1_j4vo3id wrote

The best bio-battery (weighed in dollars) is human output by far. You're not far off.


MickCollins t1_j4vub1l wrote

"Mom, my fern died and now I can't charge my phone."


Lost_Cardiologist307 t1_j4vozrs wrote

So how can we (big corporations) use this to make money? If we can’t make re it’s profits then let the earth burn


fwpod t1_j4wmakt wrote

The guy who invented it will commit suicide and unfortunately all of his research was lost. Sorry guys!


IrishRogue3 t1_j4w1d83 wrote

Been reading about these types of advances for decades that are safe for the environment and not one of them has been scaled up and implemented. We are still at wind farms as our greatest implemented green tech for energy. I’ve kinda stopped getting so excited. Is it a fault in actually scaling up these new tech answers for energy or are the existing fossil players killing them before they can run?


longrastaman t1_j4vjusx wrote

This is the type of news I like to see! We’re getting closer and closer to cleaner energy!


Specialist-Lion-8135 t1_j4vmttd wrote

I’ve often thought about the constituents of equisetum and the properties of graphene and the possibility of a living glass battery.


[deleted] t1_j4w06w3 wrote

Cue SpongeBob photosynthesis clip.


TraditionLazy7213 t1_j4wb8v7 wrote

Biol-Solar Cell + AI + Robots

Boom perpetual workforce


GDStreamz t1_j4wil5n wrote

I have a feeling it doesn’t look as attractive as that photo


Sylanthra t1_j4wsq5g wrote

>and could continue producing current for over a day.

And than what happened? Did the leaf die? That would be a major issue if the process deadly to the plant.


USS_Hornet t1_j4xea6d wrote

Uh, plants already “developed” that some billions of years ago.


Teamnoq t1_j4xuyjf wrote

Let’s mine more iron and platinum so we can turn plants into power “plants”.


Looluee t1_j4zel7j wrote

unsolars your cells


TastefulCacophony t1_j4xmtqg wrote

Species 8472 will not be pleased with our appropriating their technology.


lamabaronvonawesome t1_j4vkvna wrote

I have been saying this was an avenue for years. I had zero idea how but this is bad ass. Nature figured it out!