GLASE center to improve greenhouse industry

PLANTS ARE GROWN under varried lighting conditions, changing physiology (file photo).

On June 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined Washington Governor Jay Inslee and California Governor Jerry Brown in creating the United States Climate Alliance-a group of states that are committed to upholding the Paris Agreement following President Donald Trump’s pledged departure from the deal. The goals of the accords include reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels and limiting the average increase of global temperatures to two degrees celsius by 2030.

The deal was negotiated during the presidency of Barack Obama, under the leadership of Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Moniz led the United States Department of Energy from May 2013 to January 2017 and was an honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker for Rensselaer’s Class of 2017.

During his commencement address, Moniz noted President Shirley Ann Jackson’s influential nature on both the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board in creating and implementing integrated energy policy, which included a report on the applications of high-performance computing to clean energy problems. Many of the suggestions included in the report are currently being pursued at Rensselaer, which Moniz lauded as “groundbreaking work” and “just a snippet of what is an incredibly broad and deep program in energy-related technologies.”
“My basic message is that schools like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and my home institution, MIT, provide our graduates with the skillset to perform all of these functions, including managing change, if they also continuously stick to the underlying innovation and entrepreneurship framework which is inherent in our core business model of technologically grounded excellence,” he said.

One of the many aspects of Rensselaer’s environmentally-conscious research enterprise revolves around sustainable and clean food, water, and energy supplies under President Jackson’s research paradigm known as “The New Polytechnic.” A new public-private research consortium called GLASE, or the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium, was announced at a press conference in the Darrin Communications Center at Rensselaer.

The consortium will be led by researchers at Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the goal of transforming the way greenhouses operate in order to reduce electricity usage by up to seventy percent. The seven year, $5 million project is currently being funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in order to advance Governor Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard that aims to have 50 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, satisfying requirements held by the Paris Climate Accords and the federal Clean Power Plan.

Plant physiology expert Dr. Tessa Pocock, senior research scientist at the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications, will lead Rensselaer’s portion of the investigation focusing primarily on systems engineering applications.

“The engineered LED lighting and sensing systems with advanced feedback control are being pioneered at LESA. Integrated with Cornell’s advanced greenhouse management technologies, GLASE has the potential to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. The systems engineering expertise at LESA and the agriculture expertise at Cornell make this an ideal partnership,” said NYSERDA.
Dr. Neil Mattson, an associate professor in horticulture at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will be the principal investigator at Cornell, determining precise LED light conditions needed for tomatoes and strawberries, both commonly grown in commercial greenhouses. Mattson, who directs the Controlled Environmental Agriculture Group at Cornell CALS, said investment in energy-efficient greenhouse lighting will ensure New York’s leadership in local food production and that reactive LED lighting, much of which is currently being developed at Rensselaer, will enable optimal lighting conditions in greenhouses.