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Will Floating Solar Farms Transform the Future of Energy?

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Jane Marsh's picture
Editor, Environment.co

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

  • Member since 2020
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  • Dec 15, 2022
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One of the most affordable renewables available today is solar power. In the first three quarters of 2022, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reported that 45% of the total electricity generation capacity added was solar. Additionally, the historic Inflation Reduction Act is supporting the long-term goal of the solar industry, which is to achieve mass adoption of photovoltaic solar power.

One emerging solution to a challenge in the solar industry – a lack of space to place solar panels – is the floating solar farm. What is a floating solar farm, and how will it change the energy industry?

The Role of Floating Solar Farms in Clean Energy

Making the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is a challenging, long-term goal many countries are looking to achieve, some faster than others.

Governments worldwide are exploring renewable energy sources, new technologies, and various consumer products, like electric vehicles (EVs), to lead the charge in the energy transition. Since almost 80% of energy comes from fossil fuels, the goal is to encourage consumers to use alternative energy systems for their homes and businesses.

On the industry side, it’s crucial for companies in the renewable energy space to develop new technologies to contribute to the clean energy transition. One development – floating solar farms – could be a major contributor to the transition.

While water and electricity don’t usually mix, floating solar panels on a lake or other body of water are generating electricity. Studies suggest these floating panels are generating more energy compared to panels on roofs or ground-mounted solar installations. The water beneath the panels on a floating solar farm has a cooling effect, allowing the panels to produce electricity more efficiently.

How Solar Farms Impact the Energy Industry

According to the World Economic Forum, if just 10% of hydropower reservoirs became floating solar farms, the amount of energy produced would be equivalent to the amount produced by fossil fuels worldwide.

One issue with modern hydroelectric power facilities is the amount of water they need to operate. Reports suggest the blue water footprint of 35 hydroelectric plants was equal to the amount of global crop production in 2000. By incorporating solar generation, these plants might manage their water usage better to lessen their carbon footprint around the world.

Hotspots for Floating Solar Farms

Some regions of the world are funding more floating solar farm projects than others. Below are some of the hotspots for floating solar farms and a look at projects currently under construction.

India

The largest floating solar farm in the world will be built on the Omkareshwar Dam, located on the Narmada River, to generate power for the central state of Madhya Pradesh. The goal of this major project is to address the issues with Madhya Pradesh’s electricity generation systems. It’s expected to generate 600 MW (megawatts) of power by 2023.

The Netherlands

An island floating in Oostvoornse Meer – a lake in the southern part of the Netherlands – contains 180 solar panels equipped with sun-tracking technology. The panels move throughout the day according to the sun’s movements to generate as much electricity as possible.

South Korea

South Korea’s largest floating solar farm consists of 92,000 solar panels and is located on a 12-mile reservoir in the county of Hapcheon. The farm generates 41 MW of power, which is enough to electrify 20,000 homes in the region.

Germany

Germany has a goal to wean itself off of Russia’s fossil fuel industry. One project to help achieve this goal is a floating solar plant. The plant has 5,800 modules floating on 360 elements. Toni Weigl is the head of floating-PV product management at BayWa r.e. AG, the company leading the project. In a recent article from Reuters, Weigl suggests floating solar could help Germany house almost 20 GW of solar energy on water.

Expect More Solar Farms to Crop Up

It’s clear that floating solar farms are becoming more prominent in the clean energy industry. More time, resources, and funding are needed to build these farms across the country and the world. It’ll be interesting to see how solar farms become more popular and how these revolutionary installations accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Discussions
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 15, 2022

The best example for floating solar is likely co-located with hydropower since the dams already have nearby grid access, and having them located to minimize evaporation can help boost the hydro efficiency as well

Jane Marsh's picture
Thank Jane for the Post!
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