De Dommel Water Board, NXP and Plant-e have successfully demonstrated how a groundwater sensor can draw its power from the nature in which the sensor is placed.

The Dommel Water Board has installed 800 wireless groundwater level sensors throughout the region. These sensors are mainly powered by lithium batteries, which require regular replacement and have a negative impact on the environment.

By using living plants as a power source for the sensors, Plant-e offers a self-sufficient and sustainable alternative to batteries. The patented technology is CO2 negative and uses natural processes around plant roots to generate electricity.

Since 2009, Plant-e from Renkum has been producing electricity with living plants. Plant-e does this by using the natural processes in the soil. It works as follows: a plant produces organic material through photosynthesis and excretes part of it through the roots. Bacteria live around the roots in the soil that break down the organic material and release electrons. Plant-e captures those electrons in an electrode and thus produces electricity. To date, Plant-e uses this technology for lighting concepts in public parks, among others.

Since 2019, Plant-e has also been developing sensor solutions that receive their power from plants. Enough electricity is produced to control a sensor and send the obtained data to a dashboard. This makes it possible to remotely monitor, for example, vulnerable nature or water levels in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

Successful product validation

In May 2022, De Dommel Water Board made various locations available in its catchment area where Plant-e could test its technology in combination with a groundwater sensor. The field test consists of 78 PowerSticks spread over three locations in the North Brabant region, 1 of which is equipped with a groundwater sensor. The test involved demonstrating the reliable and continuous functioning of the power source as well as the generation of sufficient power to control the sensor and data transmission.

Thanks to the collaboration with De Dommel Water Board, data has now been successfully collected for 1,5 years: a breakthrough!

Not only has the groundwater sensor been continuously successfully supplied with power for 1,5 years, this has also continued during a very cold winter period. The Plant-e system has therefore proven to be not only very durable, but also very reliable.

Measurements were taken every hour for 1,5 years and data was sent every 24 hours. And all this using electricity from plants!

Suitable for use in rural areas and vulnerable nature

The demonstration at De Dommel can be called very successful. This does not yet mean that all current groundwater measuring points in De Dommel can be equipped with a Plant-e power source. The Plant-e technology thrives best in a soil with a lot of organic matter and a high groundwater level. Poor sandy soils, such as those found in the De Dommel area, therefore seem less suitable. To determine this, a good inventory of the soil in the area at the measuring points is an important next step.

Applying Plant-e technology in rural areas and vulnerable nature has a number of important advantages over the current method of measuring. Plant-e technology keeps harmful Lithium batteries away from (vulnerable) nature and saves time and manpower because it is no longer necessary to replace the batteries. The Plant-e system has a lifespan of 50-100 years; many times longer than the lifespan of the sensors themselves. This makes the power source ideally suited for locations where you do not want to go to replace the batteries.

Although Plant-e technology is still quite expensive due to the low quantities produced, it is now in many cases cheaper to use plant power instead of batteries.

Many companies and water boards lack the time and manpower to replace batteries every 1-2 years. And if you do have to do that, it is so expensive that you can pay for a Plant-e system within 2 years.”

Collaboration with De Dommel Water Board, Plant-e and NXP

In this product validation, Plant-e worked in collaboration with NXP developed a wireless measuring system that integrates Plant-e's power source with NXP's harvesting and conversion electronics in a robust tube: the PowerStick. The PowerStick contains the monitoring well and supplies power for the sensor and wireless data transmission based on LTE. By using this integrated system, regular battery replacement can be avoided, saving time, money and the environment.
Water Board De Dommel has made three locations available. Plant-e was responsible for screening the locations and in collaboration with Avallo the PowerSticks are installed.

Interested?

After reading this publication, are you interested in knowing more about the possibilities of Plant-e for your company and your work area? We would be happy to discuss this with you contact.

Would you like to know more about the PowerStick? Then click here to download our whitepaper.

sales@plant-e.com, office@plant-e.com

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