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Grapes and Science, a Combination Not to be Underestimated

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This is a guest post and excerpt from Il Marco Polo – Augusto Oriani, where Dr. Clinton Lee was interviewed.

Grapes, a superlative fruit, excellent to eat also produces nectar of the Gods to drink, wine. Grapes are natural and play their part in the environment.

We know that the transformation of grapes into wine produces a waste called “lees”. They are the deposit obtained at the end of fermentation and are composed of fragments of skins, seeds and exhausted yeasts. These wastes must be disposed of by the wineries, they have a zero monetary cost, indeed yet they have a cost for disposal. Today there is a possibility we have found a use. We can use the “lees” for the production of photovoltaic cells.

We briefly explain how this new type of photovoltaic cell works.

The idea of developing this new type of photovoltaic cells was born from the meeting between the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Serena Wines 1881, one of the most important Prosecco producers.

The patented process makes it possible to extract the natural dyes contained in grape polyphenols. These, when used on a titanium dioxide base, are capable of capturing sunlight and transmitting electrons to a semiconductor. It is basically a copy of what works with chlorophyll photosynthesis in plants. The project was financed by the European Social Fund of the European Commission and was managed by the Veneto Region

The convenience of energy derived from grapes compared to those found on the market using silicon is that cells derived from grapes are not expensive. They can be operational even with cloudy skies and positioning the cells can be both horizontal and vertical. This style of photovoltaic cell manufacturing has a great respect and regard for the environment because no waste is produced and innumerable other benefits. They produce 100% sustainable energy, wineries benefit because, before the lees were a disposal cost for them, and now it becomes a source of income. Unfortunately, for the cells to be available on the market, we will have to wait a little longer.

I ask what my friend Dr. Clinton Lee thinks, and if this project according to him can be proposed in Canada.

“Thank you, Augusto. These are my thoughts,” As with everything, to be commercially viable, one must achieve reduced costs and low consumer pricing so the product is affordable. One needs to have volume of production. As this project is still in the early stages of development the economical numbers will need to be researched, calculated and addressed carefully and in detail. The raw material is “lees” and one can assume the more “lees” there is more raw material available. That’s brings in the two questions, firstly, is there enough “lees” produced by the number of wineries in Western and Eastern Canada? and secondly, is there the ability to produce photovoltaic cells in Eastern and Western Canada? The principle is sound, we now need to await the practical aspect. Certainly, exciting news to keep an eye out for.”

As always, I thank Dr. Clinton Lee for his great courtesy.