Floating Solar Arrays: The Future of Solar Energy?

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An example of a floating solar system in California - Image Credit: SolarWriter via Wikimedia Commons

Land is getting scarce as population grows worldwide. Placing solar power arrays on land might therefore become more expensive and less desirable. An upcoming alternative to land based solar power systems are floating solar power systems, also called FPV (floating photovoltaic). This technology has had a rapid growth on the renewable energy market.

There are many innovative directions taken by companies operating in the floating solar power space. Recently Profloating, a Dutch company specialized in floating solar energy solutions, has completed the construction of the world's first floating PV system in the form of a milk bottle (see banner image) in the port of Rotterdam. The milk bottle project is the first working floating solar project that has been realized in a port with an open sea connection. This is technically possible thanks to an advanced tide anchor system and floats that are also suitable for salt water. Profloating will share empirical data that results from the exploitation in order to better determine the potential of floating solar energy efforts.

Important information that will be shared is data regarding differences in the yield of floating solar modules compared to ground-mounted systems. The cooling effect of water plays an important role in this. Other aspects that require further attention include the effects of double-sided panels, the reflection on water and practical aspects such as the accessibility of such maintenance systems. Can technicians easily walk on a floating system?

Practical aspects like ease of acces of the solar panels and the ability to walk on floating solar power arrays will be tested by Profloating - Image Credit: Profloating

The potential of floating solar energy in general is huge, as the World Forum recently pointed out. It stated: "The most conservative estimate of the global potential of floating solar energy, based on available man-made water surfaces, is more than 400 GWp." After intensive research, development and, above all, informing and educating the market, Profloating believes that the market is becoming increasingly mature and ready to take advantage of the available potential. This is confirmed by John Parnell of Forbes who recently stated in his article: "2019 will be the break-out year of Floating Solar."

One can think of many additional benefits on top of the potential energy output and the prevention of so called ‘land consumption’ in densely populated countries and areas. Water saving for example: the partial coverage of basins can reduce the water evaporation. This result depends on climate conditions and on the percentage of the covered surface. In arid climates such as Australia this is an important advantage since about 80% of the evaporation of the covered surface is saved. It is also said that floatig PV plants are easier to install and decommission as they are more compact than land based plants.

A parallel advantage is the containment of the algae bloom, a serious problem in industrialized countries. The partial coverage of the basins and the reduction of light on biological fouling just below the surface, together with active systems can solve this problem. This is only a part of the more general problem of managing a water basin generated by industrial activities or polluted by them. See for example the mining managing.

The Profloating showcase project at the Floating Farm location in Rotterdam puts Profloating in a position to show the world what innovative floating solar energy stands for. Everyone can actually experience it. This summer, Profloating and the Floating Farm will open their doors to the public.

Sources: ScienceDirect, The World Bank, Wikipedia, Profloating press release

Banner Image Credit: Profloating

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