This Week in Sustainability: New Innovations From Solar Cells to Farming

| Josh Henretig

farmThis week Treehugger reported that a new solar cell structure designed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems has taken over the world record for the amount of electricity produced from solar energy. After three years of research using this particular solar cell technology, the researchers were able to achieve a 44.7% conversion rate, a significant advance for improving the efficiency of solar technology. The researchers achieved the improved conversion rate by stacking the cells on top of each other, which allowed them to “absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum.” Even more promising is the fact that the manufacturer of these solar cells, Soitec, have produced solar cells to be installed in many different parts of the world, including Italy, France, South Africa and California, a sign that renewable energy is poised to continue growing its share of the world’s energy portfolio

In other news, GigaOm reported that the agricultural sector is increasingly depending on data collection and technological innovation from several new startups for increased efficiency and more environmentally-friendly farming practices. Libelium, a sensor-making company, was able to help a collection of vineyards in Spain reduce its use of fertilizer by 20% and its growing productivity by 15% by using sensors to more easily track its data. Ola Smarts, another startup cited in the article, created an automated irrigation system which has lessened the burden on the farmer and enables more efficient farming practices. This is an important advance to help farmers adapt to changing climate. After millennia of relying on “the cloud” for irrigation, farmers will be able to rely on another type of cloud to tell them when to harvest and plant their crops too.

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