Many countries lack in space to install large scale ground-mount solar systems. In parallel with small and medium rooftop systems in the housing and in industry, large-scale floating power plants are necessary for the solar energy to contribute to the energy mix. As authorities wish to avoid taking away large farmlands for ground-mount solar systems, a need to find acceptable ecological alternative solutions with help of innovative solar power technology developed by a Franco-Israeli partnership which is said to be a new paradigm in energy production.
Europe's biggest floating solar panel array is being installed on London's Queen Elizabeth II reservoir as part of Thames Water's bid to self-generate 1/3rd of its electricity by 2020.
More than 23,000 photovoltaic panels are floated on the reservoir near Walton-on-Thames, following an agreement between Thames Water, Ennoviga Solar and Light source Renewable Energy. They will cover around 1/10th of the reservoir. It will have a peak capacity of 6.3MW and is expected to generate 5.8GWh in its first year. The electricity produced from this reservoir will be used to power the nearby water treatment works.
Massachusetts has been aggressively rolling out solar projects and energy efficiency measures at 14 water and wastewater facilities across the state in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of the energy used by water treatment facilities. Through this program, $3.7 million of annual energy savings is anticipated through energy efficiencies and on-site energy power generation. In addition to solar on land, SPG Solar floats solar power systems on water. The Floatovoltaics technology means that, “Water agencies and waste water treatment plants can now take a holistic approach to their solar solutions. A hybrid solar power system built on water and land not only conserves land space but provides water and environmental benefits while generating clean, renewable and more affordable electricity.
Besides from generating power, the systems also provide other environmental benefits. As an example, the SPG system shades the water and can reduce evaporation by up to 70%. A 3-acre storage pond covered with solar panels could save over 4 million gallons of water each year. The systems can also improve water quality. As water bodies are exposed to the sun, photosynthesis promotes growth of organic matter, including algae. By shading the water, algae growth is reduced, minimizing the associated treatment and labour costs.
Due to all these positive benefits, global floating solar panels market is expected to reach US $2.70 bn by 2025. Also some factors like rising demand for reliable renewable power generation, ability to mitigate land cost is expected to favour demand over the projected period, declining panel cost leading to lower per unit cost of generation, floating solar panels enables low management and maintenance costs are key in growth of floating solar panels.
Key players such as Kyocera Corporation, Trina Solar, Sharp Corporation and Yingli Solar. Ciel & Terre has already covered major part of globe. This shows that global floating solar panels have a bright future.