Look Beneath The Surface For the Truth About Floating Solar Farms

The global floating solar farms industry is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years and might hit $10 billion by 2030. Floating solar farms, also called floatovoltaics, is expected to be the next big thing as the world transitions towards clean energy. But not everything is roses and sunshine, as these floating solar panel farms hide a dirty secret just beneath their surface – the panels sit on floating modules made of virgin plastic. Highly cost-efficient and convenient, floating solar farms have started popping up in large numbers across the world.

Floating solar or floating photovoltaics are solar panels that are mounted on a body of water.

What is a floating solar farm?

Solar power is the cheapest form of electricity as per a report by the International Energy Agency.

In a floating solar farm, also called floatovoltaics, floating solar panels are mounted on large water bodies, usually a lake or a reservoir.

The solar farm company places the floating panels that contain a solar tracker, which follows the movement of the sun, on water bodies. This enhances exposure time and increases the efficiency of the floating solar panels, as the panels stay cool naturally.

The floating panels sit on plastic floats. Using floating panels frees up land for other uses. It is unclear how these floating panels made of plastic will impact the environment.

Solar farms can be expensive to build but give better returns and reduce carbon emissions.

Which is the world’s biggest floating solar farm?

As of 2021, India and China account for some of the biggest solar farms in the world. The two countries combined are home to six of the ten biggest floating solar farms in the world. South Korea has two of the top ten.

The biggest operational floating solar panels are located in China’s Shandong province. Huaneng Power International has switched on a 320 MW floating PV array that will be deployed in two phases on a reservoir close to the 2.65 GW Dezhou thermal power station. The facility is expected to generate around 550 million kWh of electricity, along with providing jobs to the locals.

Another one touted to be the largest floating solar farm when it is operational, will be built in India. A 600MW solar energy project will be constructed on the Omkareshwar dam on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, India. It will start generating power by 2022-2023. Floating solar panels farms will be installed on the 2000-hectare water area of the dam.

The Nondegradable Element in Renewable Energy

Floating solar panels are estimated to be around 15% more efficient than land-based solar projects. They also help prevent evaporation, saving more water for hydropower.

The panels are attached to hollow plastic buoys which are anchored to the bottom of a water body. The buoys are usually made of virgin plastic that requires natural gas or crude oil to produce. In comparison, land-based solar farms are 10 to 15% less expensive. In the UK, the plastics have been certified drinking water-safe to avoid possible contamination.

Experts are reviewing water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, total algae, and other water conditions to study whether the plastic buoys change the water in any manner.

Six of the ten biggest floating solar farms in the world are located in India and China.

In Alqueva, Portugal, they have found a way to minimize plastic usage by using recycled plastic. The floating solar panels sit on materials made from recycled plastic and corks. The composite material was manufactured by Amorim, a cork-processing group that has used cork composites as a thermal isolator for NASA space shuttles. This practice has helped the farm reduce its carbon footprint by nearly 30%.

Solar farm companies are on the rise as countries slowly try to achieve carbon neutrality. On average, solar farm costs for installation range between $0.89 to $1.01 per watt. These figures translate to anything between $890,000 and $1.01 million for solar panel farms that produce 1 megawatt (MW) of energy.

Floating solar farms give maximum output when they are placed near existing hydroelectric plants, as it allows the facility to produce electricity from dual sources and reduces processing time.

Christy Gren

Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

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