Clean Power

Published on June 2nd, 2011 | by David L Roberts


SunScience a Game Changer in Delivering Solar Energy Benefits to Farmers, Off-Grid Communities & Disaster Areas

June 2nd, 2011 by  

Illustration of DG1 hybrid solar power system

When you think of solar energy, you tend to think of decades-old, inefficient photovoltaic panels delivering electricity. You think of them in fixed positions on the ground in massive utility-scale arrays and on rooftops of businesses, government buildings, and homes. Think again, because SunScience has developed as the flagship of their product line a “hybrid” solar system called DG1 that integrates both concentrated and thermal solar power for a highly efficient energy footprint. Future product plans include placing this system on wheels with other essential services, such as storage and communications, to deliver solar energy benefits in places not previously possible.

Imagine solar energy benefits to these huge, underserved markets.

Greenhouse farming. Traditional farming is at the mercy of the seasons, weather, availability of water,and persistence of pests. Greenhouse farming has evolved to control some of these variables, but has remained a niche market, largely due to older technology and high energy costs. The SunScience hybrid solar system will change that.

Primitive and off-grid communities. One day, off-grid business parks, traditional farms and even military bases will be the beneficiaries of a mobile SunScience energy system. Add to these the thousands of villages with over a billion people across South America, India, China, and Africa that are without electricity, clean water, and Internet connections.

Disaster areas. Katrina, Haiti and Japan once had municipal services, but in an instant had none. The immediacy and portability of the (future) SunScience mobile solar system can be both life-saving and an essential element in population management during chaos.

DG1 hybrid solar system powers greenhouse

Greenhouse farming has been practiced for many years, largely for specialty produce. However, changing economics and distribution patterns in the worldwide agriculture industry are causing traditional farmers to seriously consider the merits of greenhouse farming. Food prices are rising rapidly, driven by transport costs as well as competition in the commodity markets from biofuel producers. Not to mention produce from South America and Asia is increasingly being sold in U.S. supermarkets. The emergence of the SunScience DG1 hybrid solar system and discoveries in soil science can now deliver these previously unavailable benefits of solar energy to greenhouse farming:

  • A typical pattern of spring planting and fall harvesting, say 6 months, can be extended to 12 months, with the possibility of 2 or 3 plantings per year. And killing frost is never an issue in a greenhouse powered by SunScience.
  • Farming will become possible in areas where soil quality or weather are normally prohibitive.
  • With control of humidity within the greenhouse, less evaporation occurs, therefore less water usage.
  • In a controlled greenhouse environment, pest and disease management is improved.
  • According to research in the Netherlands, control of the greenhouse environment can dramatically reduce the growing time by half in some cases, thus increasing the number of plantings per year.
  • With SunScience’s efficient power system, a farmer does not even need to be on farm land. And plant photosynthesis does not even require direct sunlight. Light rays from energy efficient LED lighting in, say a city warehouse, are sufficient for agriculture.

SunScience is a game changer because of their unique proprietary “hybrid” solar or power generation system, called DG1, that combines both concentrated and thermal solar electricity generation. SunScience’s “concentrated” solar photovoltaic (CPV) units are smaller and far more efficient than traditional PV panels, extremely lightweight and modular. A fixed fresnel lens system eliminates the cost of a dual axis solar tracking system that traditional PV panels require. SunScience’s system produces solar thermal energy with options, one of which is heating water to drive a turbine engine for generating electricity. It can also just heat water, bypassing the creation of electricity, for direct soil heating in the greenhouse. As a result, inventor James Parker, PhD, says “flat glass PV panels do almost nothing for the greenhouse farmer.”

These “hybrid” benefits result in competitive advantages nobody today can match:

  • Density — delivers up to six times the solar energy per square foot versus PV panels.
  • Cost — energy produced is dramatically cheaper per watt than PV panels.
  • Results in a very efficient — cost, space, and weight — energy footprint.
  • The SunScience hybrid system delivers stored energy in the form it’s needed at the time it’s wanted.

SunScience’s future product plans include its Municipal Mobile Service (MMS), which mounts its DG1 hybrid power generation system on wheels with energy storage capability (batteries) and remotely managed communications. It will be invaluable in serving off-grid villages, communities, and disaster areas. These off-grid markets are inadequately served by traditional PV, concentrated PV, or thermal solar technologies. What these communities have in common is a need for some combination of basic municipal services such as electricity, power storage, clean and hot water. and communications, all to be available with the MMS platform in 2012. President Dick Kelsey believes “Our MMS unit will be designed to meet the global need for a portable infrastructure that can deliver key services for agricultural, disaster recovery, remote community infrastructure and military applications.”

About SunScience

SunScience Corporation has built a unique hybrid solar technology platform that is the first of its kind in the industry. SunScience’s DG1 platform is a true hybrid system that synergistically combines concentrated photovoltaics and solar thermal collectors in one modular unit. The company is focused on developing and bringing its revolutionary solar hybrid technology platform to market in key vertical markets, beginning with greenhouse farming. For general information about SunScience, visit its website.  For guidance about purchasing the SunScience system or other involvement, you can contact president Dick Kelsey by email ( or phone (775-230-5203).

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About the Author

is a marketing consultant to renewable energy startups.

  • Good stuff guys i know it can work to make this world a better place and help others in disaster areas . keep thinking out of the box .Angel

  • Nbjunk2

    Nice product, but still trying to see exactly how this product is a “game changer” for greenhouses. Yes it has higher density, but will it be dramatically less than cost the combination of other discrete mass produced PV and solar heating modules? Though I’m sure this will catch on I don’t see it substantially increasing greenhouse farming. It will do so only if it dramatically decreases the cost of such.

    • MM Kisabuli

      If one bought this system to grow tomatoes and sold the tomatoes for US$ 0.30/lb; how many years would it take to repay the system. I live in Kenya and we have a very basis system that costs about US$ 1,800, and has a water tank, drip lines, fertilizer and tomato seed. How does this compare?

      • Sorry for the long delay in responding. We do not market outside the US at this time. Also, because each greenhouse or hoophouse operation is custom installed with SunScience’s Energy Management System, it is not possible to calculate the costs you requested. Each customer situation is different, much having to do with the the latitude and amount of heat required in the soil due to night time temps

    • Aaron Fown

      I think that the primary advantage in the greenhouse environment would be the secondary system that routes hot water through soil-warming pipes rather than through the turbine. One of the major challenges for greenhouses in colder climates is keeping them warm enough in the winter to grow warmth loving produce like tomatos and cucumbers. Conventional PV systems can only provide electricity, which is highly inefficient at heating air, compared to hot water. Some of the systems I see used pools of water in the greenhouse as a place to deposit warmth (water is more efficient at capturing heat from electricity), but this system seems to be usable even in greenhouses that aren’t hydroponic. Also, it could be used to heat hot water for a home, one less piece of sustainable bric-a-brac  to install. 

      How much does it cost?

      • Sorry for the long delay in responding. Because each greenhouse or hoophouse operation is custom installed with SunScience’s Energy Management System, it is not possible to quote a price. Each customer situation is different, much having to do with the latitude and amount of heat required in the soil due to night time temps. If you have specs for a greenhouse project, including where the project is, send them along and we can get a rough idea of price.

    • Boy do I feel embarrassed for waiting so long to reply. Anyway, the “game changer” is not so much in the power source, but in a) the sensor system that runs thru the greenhouse that measures air and soil temp, humidity and a variety of soil chemistry elements and b) the proprietary software system that captures all the sensor data, as well as the power and storage data — and controls all variables from a desktop, remotely. If want to know more send me an email:
      Sorry for the long delay.

      Dave Roberts

  • MM Kisabuli

    What’s the cost of one of these systems?

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