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Renewable Energy Sources and Vertical Farming

University of Texas at Austin_091921A
[ The University of Texas at Austin]

- Overview

Agriculture is one of the largest consumers of natural resources, from land to water, and contributes significantly to environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The emergence of vertical farming is part of the solution to these challenges and helps reduce environmental impact.

Vertical farming refers to the process of growing plants vertically rather than horizontally along the ground like traditional farming. Vertical farms were created to address the global challenges humanity currently faces due to unsustainable food systems, such as CO2 emissions from inefficient supply chains, food mile emissions, and scarcity of water and arable land.

There are many ways to integrate renewable energy into vertical farming systems. For example, a solar power system can be installed on-site at a vertical farm to generate electricity. This electricity can power lighting and other needed equipment such as pumps and fans. Additionally, solar thermal systems can be used to provide hot water for cleaning and other purposes. 

Wind power can also be used to generate electricity for farms. Small wind turbines can be installed nearby to generate electricity. However, wind power is less stable than solar, so it may need to be supplemented by other energy sources. 

In addition to solar and wind energy, other renewable energy sources such as biogas, geothermal and hydroelectricity have the potential to power vertical farms. However, the viability of these sources may depend on the location and availability of these alternative energy sources. 

By running your vertical farm on renewable electricity, you not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also provide a stable energy supply, which is crucial for year-round operation of your vertical farm, ensuring reliable production cycles, maximum productivity and enhanced resources use. 

Synergies between Vertical Farming and the Renewable Energy Economy

Vertical farms can use renewable energy sources to power their lighting, heating, and cooling systems. These sources include: Solar panels, Wind power, Biogas, Geothermal, Hydroelectric power. 

Solar panels can be installed on the roof of the building or container farm. This clean energy solution reduces reliance on fossil fuels and minimizes greenhouse gas emissions. 

Other renewable energy sources may depend on the location and availability of these alternative energy sources. 

According to a study, solar energy can become 10 times cheaper than electricity from gas-based plants in the near future. This will make sustainable energy sources the most viable energy source for vertical farmers worldwide.

Vertical farms have a significantly higher average energy use at 38.8 kWh per kg of produce as opposed to traditional greenhouses, which average 5.4 kWh per kg. 

Integrating natural sunlight, renewable sources, and smart energy management systems allows vertical farms to operate more sustainably. A commitment to energy efficiency minimizes the vertical farming carbon footprint. It sets a benchmark for environmentally responsible agriculture practices.


- Using Renewable Energy in Vertical Farming

Vertical farming can integrate renewable energy sources in several ways to reduce its carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels:

  • Solar panels: Installed on the roof of a vertical farm, solar panels can generate electricity for lighting, fans, and pumps. Solar panels can also heat water for irrigation, which can reduce energy and water costs. Solar thermal systems can heat the air in the farm, which can improve the growing environment.
  • Wind turbines: Wind turbines can power lighting, heating, cooling, and irrigation systems.
  • Micro-hydroelectric generators: Micro-hydroelectric generators can power lighting, heating, cooling, and irrigation systems.
  • Energy storage solutions: Batteries and capacitors can integrate intermittent renewables, ensuring a continuous power supply.
  • LED lighting systems: Energy-efficient lighting systems can help use electricity optimally.
  • Intelligent temperature and humidity control systems. These systems can help reduce energy consumption by optimizing environmental conditions for plant growth.
  • Thermal storage tanks: These tanks can capture excess heat for later use to maintain a steady temperature. 


[More to come ...]

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