The greenhouses of the Netherlands supply much of Northern Europe’s tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables in the winter, but they use up a ton of energy to provide these summer vegetables during the colder months. However, thanks to the Japanese Showa Denko company, there may be a way for the greenhouses to actually grow their plants faster while using 70 percent less power. How? By using red LEDs designed to make plants perform photosynthesis faster.
These red LEDs are what’s called aluminum-gallium-indium-phosphide, or AlGaInP, LED chips, and Showa Denko has been working on them for the past two years. According to the company, these chips have a very, very high output thanks to a new light-emitting layer, and this output makes them ideal for use in greenhouses. While studies have shown that blue light makes plants open in the morning and start taking in carbon dioxide, it’s natural daylight lamps and red lights that make plants begin photosynthesis.
However, don’t expect to see all of the Netherlands bathed in red LED light any time soon. There’s a cost, and it’s a hefty one. While LEDs do certainly cost less to operate than the large daylight lamps, they cost two to three times more than the standard fluorescent or sodium lamps that most greenhouses currently use. A few greenhouses have gone to a red LED system, and they say it will take about three years before the savings completely pays for the lights. However, as LED technology improves, it won’t be long before greenhouse growers jump on this new technology and get rid of those old, power-hogging lamps.