Who says you must install solar panels on a house roof, or in big open fields in the desert; or perhaps on reclaimed landfills and brownfield sites? Why not float the renewable energy systems on water?
There are obvious advantages to doing this; such as, but not limited to:
- No land areas taken up with panels
- Cool water can help remove heat from the panels-making for better efficiencies
- Less surface evaporation of water, especially in arid areas
- Light reflection off water surface could increase panel performance by 5-15%
- Decommissioning of plant much less disruptive than land based installations
- Reduces algae growth on water surfaces.
China is a leader in this technology, as well as being a worldwide “monster producer” of solar panels. They have built the largest floating solar power plant in the world, 40 MW of renewable energy production comprised of 120,000 panels.
According to a report compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency, Asia accounted for more than two-thirds of the worldwide increase in renewable energy generating capacity in 2017. It is likely many new types of solar applications, like floating systems, will be seen in the coming years. China, Japan, and India were among the top-most contributors to this increase.
What if you installed a floating solar plant atop a lake behind a dam? Could this help increase the output of the dam? Maybe you could use it to pump water back from the dam’s outlet to help refill the lake for use again later as electrical demand increased? Water evaporation is a dam’s enemy, so reducing that evaporation is desirable. Same with locating a solar plant atop a drinking water supply—less evaporation.
California is also experimenting with floating solar stations. Experts believe 20-30 percent of the state’s energy needs could be derived by harnessing that state’s suitable lake locations.