"As the population is growing, demand for energy and food is growing too. It’s time to use natural synergies between agriculture and energy and create greater interoperability between both production sectors. It’s time to use greenhouses to effectively consume excess electricity caused by the intermittent nature of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels." This grand vision of the future is painted by Zoltán Kováč. With his startup Mesled Energy, he's looking to transform LEDs: beyond just grow lights, they will become sources of energy, if his mission is successful.
Zoltán Kováč is an engineer and entrepreneur who worked as a lighting designer and project manager in energy efficiency. Four years ago, he decided to create a new solution for a persistent problem in lighting projects – waste heat coming from luminaires made LEDs unusable in industries with warm to hot environments.
"I knew very well that the rate of return is the key to success to sell any (new) solution. I also knew that the usage of waste heat from LEDs can't repay the needed pipe infrastructure for active cooling. But without liquid medium we can't use waste heat from LEDs – free energy! The only solution was to find a new device capable of more than just lighting."
The only way to ensure an acceptable return period for a higher investment was to use the necessary pipe infrastructure to support the heating and cooling infrastructure in the building/greenhouses. "I quickly realized that the solution is bigger than I expected at the beginning. I went back to the Slovak University of Technology to write a dissertation work about the new solution."
When he realized the solution he came up with was also applicable in greenhouses, he decided to delve into that. So, how does it work? "Crop production in greenhouses is usually placed outside residential areas, where light intensity changes are irrelevant. The energy intensity in winter decreases if the heat is kept inside. Our multifunctional device optimally uses the waste heat from LED light sources which represent 60-70% of electricity consumption. Its used form is optional. It can be used as blown warm air to provide an active thermal barrier for radiant heat in winter. Or it can be used as warm water to provide preheating for the main heat source or for irrigation water. Our system uses 'free cold' in underground water to eliminate climate change in summer. "
According to Zoltán, what makes the Mesled system different from water-cooled LEDs already on the market, is its multifunctionality and energy efficiency. "Existing solutions store the waste heat in working fluid. Our solution can also blow it down as warm air. The incoming thermal energy (heat/cold) can also be blown down, and after that heat exchange takes the waste heat from LEDs (cooled down). Basically, our device has three operation modes to adapt to the actual season or needs without human intervention."
Combined Light and Heat
While this type of LED lighting won't make devices like CHP installations and traditional heating/cooling devices obsolete, the technical principles of these “combined” processes are very similar, Zoltán explains. "The 'Combined Light and Heat' production of any light source (not just LEDs) can be compared with the 'Combined Heat and Power' process. Both of them use waste heat - an inseparable by-product of both the combustion engine (CHP) and the light source (CLH)."
"Since the multifunctional feature of our solution can be compared to a sum of more individual technical systems, it represents an advantage in investment, merged maintenance, saved time of implementation and minimal total shading of daylight in the greenhouse."
Zoltán is looking to turn his invention into a full-fledged system, which, when completed, should be compatible with existing LED chips on the market. To do that, he could use some help.
"Our strategy is to mobilize forces. It means to create global partnerships with the right 'tool' - the license. The most important step at this time is to extend our patent application for as many countries as possible. Our early stage startup (Mesled Energy Ltd.) can't realize it. Unfortunately, our (Slovak) government doesn't support patent activities like other governments are doing."
If Mesled's participation in the PowerUp! competition is successful, Zoltán hopes to have a working product ready by 2022.
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