2019 Will Be Floating Solar’s Breakout Year – Forbes

Electricity and water usually is a pretty terrible combination. This year, however, floating solar power systems look like they are set to gain some serious traction.

We’ve now well and truly shifted from seeing a handful of ‘novel’ early mover projects garner attention to watching a clutch of large-systems jostling for the claim of being the world’s largest. Before the year is out at least three different projects in China will all have laid claim to this title.

Obviously, the electricity and the water are kept safely apart. Panels are installed on floating pontoons with the inverters either joining them on the water or centralized on the shore.

So why bother to go through all the effort of setting sail when you could simply secure them to the land?

Early projects were often paired with an existing hydropower dam with the solar element on the reservoir surface behind the dam. Others were on water bodies linked to a power user, a mine’s tailings pond for example. Lightsource, now Lightsource BP, built an early project in the UK for utility Thames Water.

By sharing a location with an existing generator like a dam, grid connection costs can be reduced. If it is a pumped hydro site, any surplus power can be used to top up the reservoir and the electricity used at a more cost-effective time. If a large energy user, like a mine, or a sewerage treatment plant is nearby, the power can be used locally potentially negating grid costs. For many mines, remote locations can mean relying on diesel generators.

Lakes and reservoirs can reduce their losses from evaporation by covering part of the surface with solar. Lake Mead loses 5% a year to evaporation, significant given its levels have been at record lows of late. The appeal in water-scarce regions of the world is obvious.


Source: Forbes