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Solar Panels that Float on Water

Jessica PirroApril 29, 20198220

Not every location is ideal for solar panels. Some roofs have shade and some roofs are too old to get the approval to mount their panels on the roof.

The common alternative to large solar projects that cannot be mounted on the roof, is typically ground mounts or solar canopies depending on the property. There is now a new alternative; floating solar.

What is floating solar?

Floating solar is any sort of array that floats on top of a body water, it is also known as floating photovoltaic (FPV). In order for the panels to work they need to be attached to a floating structure that will keep them above water.

Most floating structure will be found in lakes or basins due to the ocean not being calm enough for the panels. Another body of water where you may find FPV’s is a reservoir.

The first time FPV technology was registered was in 2008. It is a relatively new concept that is mostly used in China, Japan and The UK.

Advantages

Just like all other methods of installation, there are advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages include, there is no loss of land space, the solar panels typically have higher solar panel performances and there are no environmental issues.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of floating solar panels, is that the is no loss of land space. When FPV is installed it is normally installed on spaces in the water that aren’t being used. You will normally be able to find these FPV’s in on hydroelectric dam reservoirs, waste water ponds or drinking water reservoirs.

By installing the systems on these bodies of water that aren’t being used, it is allowing landowners to use the area of land that would be taken up by the system. By installing these systems in the water you are also reducing the amount of tree’s that will need to be removed and forest clearing that is normal to do with larger solar projects.  

Though solar panels are durable and can handle the heat, the perform better when they are cool. The higher the temperature, the more the output of the panels decreases. The FPv’s have higher solar panel performances.

The water that the solar panels are floating on tends to act as a cooling system. Because the water is cooling the panels down it helps the panels perform well in hotter climates.

There is also quite a few environmental benefits to these FPV’s. It isn’t just the water that is cooling off the FPV’s, but it also goes the other way. The FPV’s provide shade for the bodies of water and reduces the evaporation from these bodies of water.

These are especially beneficial to the areas where it isn’t uncommon to have drought’s. By slowing down the evaporation process it stops the drought prone area’s from losing even more water.

The shade also decreases the algae bloom in bodies of freshwater. These blooms are dangerous from human heath and can contribute to the death of plants and animals that are living in the water.

Because the FPV’s are clean and renewable electricity, they help decrease the emission of greenhouse gas and other pollutants. This not only leaves an impact on the environment, but human health as well.

A few disadvantages include costs and application.

The installation of floating solar usually has some additional costs when compared to that of traditional solar panel systems. Since it is a newer technology and requires specialized equipment it is usually more costly. However, as they get more popular the prices are starting to drop.

Another disadvantage is application. Like roof and ground mounts, floating solar systems aren’t just for anyone. FPV’s are usually large-scale and typically provide power for utility companies, large communities or companies.

Floating solar systems don’t usually make sense for ones own home. The installation process is different than others and they are installing a lot more panels.

Floating solar panels and hydropower:

The worlds first floating solar and hydroelectric plant was done in Portugal in 2017. With floating solar increasing you can expect to see it combined with hydropower a lot more due the numerous benefits that come with the pairing.

One of the top reasons to pair the technologies is because of the you can relay on electricity to be generated by hydroelectric systems. Hydroelectric plants usually produce electricity very predictability year round because of constant water flow year round.

During the seasonal variations, water levels can fluctuate energy production by dams. By installing a floating solar array on a reservoir behind most hydroelectric dams, the system can produce extra electricity to stabilize the output of hydroelectric plants while the water levels are changing.

The extra electricity that is produced by floating panels during the day means that more water can be stored behind hydroelectric dams. Meaning, during the nigh, when the panels aren’t producing energy, the extra water that was stored can be allowed through the hydropower facility, producing enough power to get through the night.

This process is very important, especially in areas that have weak electrical grids and it’s necessary that these systems aren’t interrupted while delivering energy. By pairing floating solar panels with hydroelectric generation, it is provided with grid stability that is needed.

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