Solar energy is a clean and renewable alternative to fossil fuels, and floating solar often provides even more environmental benefits.
Floating solar or floating photovoltaic (FPV), is any sort of solar array that floats on top of a body of water.
On the one hand, floating solar is a relatively new concept. The first patents for this type of technology registered in 2008. On the other hand, over the past years, a myriad of floating systems have been installed in ponds, reservoirs, canals, rivers and oceans.
There exist two types of floating solar systems:
- FPV or Floating photovoltaic: uses photovoltaic panels mounted on the platform.
- Floating CSP or Floating concentrated solar power: uses mirrors that redirect the solar power to a tower.
The World’s First Floating Solar Power Plants
The world’s first floating PV system was installed in 2007 by SPG Solar on a pond in Napa, California. Land in Napa, famous for its wines, can cost USD 300,000 per acre, so land space is too valuable for installing solar panels on it. 1,000 floating panels in the system were linked to 1,300 stationary panels on land to produce 4,000 kW total.
The world’s first floating solar PV system, California, USA. Source: https://news.energysage.com/
The first floating solar power plant for the marine environment in the world – SolarSea – was launched in 2014 by Swimsol.
The company in cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany created a new technology that makes large solar systems possible even for islands that do not have enough roofs or land for solar panels.
Such floating systems are currently operating in the Maldives and demonstrate great potential for other marine regions.
SolarSea marine floating solar power plant. Source: https://www.scheuch-foundation.org/
Advantages and Disadvantages of Floating Solar
Floating solar provides a number of benefits.
Floating solar doesn’t require valuable land space
One of the biggest advantages of floating solar panels is that the installations do not require valuable land space. Many of them can take up unused space on bodies of water.
Most of the existing floating solar plants are installed in Asia, where most of the growth is expected to continue, especially in countries such as India and South Korea. Solar power companies in these countries, which are competing for land with agriculture, industry and expanding populations, have found an innovative alternative: placing floating panels in lakes, dams, reservoirs and the sea.
Higher solar panel performance due to the water-cooling effect on silicon solar cells
Solar panel performance tends to decline as temperatures rise. The bodies of water that host floating solar arrays help cool down the solar equipment, which means the panels produce electricity at higher efficiencies in hot climates.
The floating solar panel structure shades the body of water and reduces evaporation from these ponds, reservoirs, and lakes. This is a particularly useful benefit in areas susceptible to drought.
In addition, the shade provided by these floating solar also helps reduce the presence of algae blooms in bodies of freshwater
Lastly, floating solar panels are a source of clean, renewable electricity. Their use helps decrease the emissions of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Nevertheless, floating solar facilities do have disadvantages. There are 2 main:
Floating solar installations may require additional costs than more traditional types of solar panel installations. Moreover, this relatively new technology requires specialized equipment and more niche installation knowledge.
The majority of floating solar installations is large-scale and provide power for utility companies, large communities, companies, or municipalities. If you are looking for home solar system, we suggest installing a traditional rooftop or ground-mounted system.
Biggest Floating Solar Plants: Today and Tomorrow
On the 18th of July, South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced it will develop a 2.1 GW floating solar power plant which is to be 14-times larger than the world’s current largest floating project.
It will be built atop the Saemangeum Seawall dyke, located on the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula. The plant will be built over two stages – a 1.2 GW first stage which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022, and a 900 MW second stage to be completed in 2025.
To recap, the world’s largest floating solar plant today is a 150-MW project under construction in China’s Panji District.
Further, the Ministry also claimed that the project would “be 1.6 times more than the combined capacity of the global floating solar facilities for all of last year.”
Floating solar power installed globally is expected to grow to around 10 GW by 2030. This is a small amount compared to the total market for solar power, but every contribution is welcome in the renewable energy market. The World Bank’s reports predict an explosion of floating solar over the next two decades. At the end of 2018, it reported a total global capacity of 1.1 GW of floating solar PV.
We will discuss this and many other issues during SEF 2019 KYIV the 11th Sustainable Energy Forum and Trade Show of Central and Eastern European in Kyiv on October 16-18.
You can register for SEF 2019 KYIV:
on the website: sefkyiv.com
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