A decision is set to be made this evening over a 5MW solar farm planned for development on the site of a former quarry.

Engineers from the University of Exeter have discovered that mimicking the stance of a butterfly getting ready to take off can boost the efficiency of solar panels by almost 50 percent.

The common Cabbage White butterfly warms its muscles before taking flight using a technique known as reflectance basking, where it uses its wings to reflect the sun’s energy onto its body.

Reflectance basking is made possible by specific sub-structures in the butterflies’ wings that reflect light from the sun very efficiently.

A team from the Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Exeter found that by applying a similar wing-like structure to solar panels, and artificially replicating the layer of reflective scales covering butterflies’ wings, the power-to-weight ratio of a panel can be dramatically increased, making it more efficient.

Tapas Mallick, the lead author of the paper explains: “Biomimicry in engineering is not new. However, this truly multidisciplinary research shows a pathway to develop low cost solar power that has not been done before.”

Richard French-Constant, a co-author on the paper, adds: “This proves that the lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages but actually an insect that is an expert at harvesting solar energy.”

 

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