We love creative ways to install solar. Ever hear of Floatavotaics? It is one solution to lowering the cost of mounting solar panels, now by far the largest cost in making an installation. Floating PV systems use solar arrays that float on bodies of water, such as reservoirs, lakes, and even the sea in some cases. This technology has been increasingly adopted around the world as an innovative and efficient way to generate solar power, particularly in regions where land is scarce or expensive. There are other benefits with floating solar such as water conservations and improved panel efficiency.
In the US, towns facing land and energy shortages are putting floatovoltaics on their reservoirs, like in Healdsburg, California.. There is also the opportunity to pair floatovoltaics with hydro power, using the same electrical infrastructure. Floatovoltaics has taken off in Asia with China’s Dezhou Dingzhuang Solar Farm reaching 320 MW of capacity Just under 3 years ago (2021) the Biden Administration opened up federal land for Floating PV.
Some Benefits Highlighted.
Efficient land use: Floating PV installations can be particularly useful in densely populated areas or regions with limited available land. They can be installed on man-made reservoirs, lakes, or even on the sea, freeing up land for agricultural use, conservation, or other developments.
Water conservation: By covering the surface of the water bodies, floating solar panels reduce water evaporation, which can be particularly beneficial in dry regions. They can also limit the growth of harmful algae by blocking sunlight.
Improved energy efficiency: The cooling effect of water helps to keep the solar panels at a lower temperature, which can improve their efficiency as photovoltaic panels typically lose efficiency as temperature increases. Moreover, the surrounding water can be naturally cooler than the ambient air temperature in many places, enhancing this effect.
Apparently, Floatovolatics initially looks like a great solution but face their own set of significant challenges. A big one is higher-than-expected installation and maintenance costs relative to land-based systems. Costs are driven by challenges around anchoring and ensuring the stability of the system, especially in the case of sea-based installations. There could also be potential impacts on local ecosystems from operating or from damaged panels.
This is one of many creative ideas to lower costs for solar farms. We are trying to watch a number of them–vertical installation of panels, the use of a specially-built solar awning, and installations right on the ground. Creative minds at work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.