As you can appreciate there are many different types of solar systems on the market these days.
If we are looking at decelerating climate change then one technology that is getting a lot of attention lately is solar photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on floating platforms in water bodies.
The large-scale use of this technology could have many benefits including the production of renewable energy, reduction of water consumption and evaporation, and providing protection for aquatic ecosystems.
There are however also some potential drawbacks to using floating solar panels which should be considered before large-scale deployment which we will look into in this article.
Firstly let’s explain exactly what floating solar panels are.
- 1 What are Floating Solar Panels?
- 2 How Do Floating Solar Panels Work?
- 3 Efficiency Of Floating Solar Panels
- 4 Applications Of Floating Solar Panels
- 5 Floating Solar Panels Advantages And Disadvantages
- 6 Floating Solar Panels Market Size
- 7 Where are Floating Solar Panels situated?
- 8 Floating Solar Panels Ocean
- 9 Floating Solar Panels Environmental Impact
- 10 Floating Solar Panels For Swimming Pools
- 11 Floating Solar Panels Future
- 12 FAQs
What are Floating Solar Panels?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) is the technology used to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar PV panels consist of many small solar cells made from a thin film of silicon.
When sunlight hits the solar cells, electrons are knocked loose from the atoms and flow through the material to create an electric current.
A solar panel converts these photons into electricity that can be used to power homes and businesses or fed back into the grid.
Floating solar arrays are composed of the same types of materials as land-based photovoltaic systems, with the exception that they float on water instead of being bolted to the ground.
The array is usually anchored to the bottom of a lake, reservoir, or irrigation pond to keep it in place.
The most common type of floatation device used is a pontoon system, which consists of plastic or rubber pontoons that support the weight of the solar panels and hardware.
Related: The Latest Solar Panel Statistics
How Do Floating Solar Panels Work?
Solar floating farms function by allowing solar panels to sit safely on top of a body of water.
Solar panels are connected to a series of interconnecting plastic rafts, which provide a surface for them to be mounted on and keep them safe from strong winds while also ensuring that the system is stable.
The water underneath the solar panels helps to cool them down, making them more efficient than if they were on land.
The cooling effect also prevents the build-up of barnacles and algae, which can affect the performance of land-based systems.
Efficiency Of Floating Solar Panels
The efficiency of floating solar panels
Floating solar is expected to be up to 15% more efficient than land-based solar installations of the same size.
The main reason for this increased efficiency is the cooling effect of the water, which prevents solar panels from overheating and losing energy through heat.
In addition, the albedo effect (the reflecting power of a surface) of water also helps to increase the amount of sunlight that is reflected back onto the solar panels, resulting in more photons being converted into electricity.
Applications Of Floating Solar Panels
There are many potential applications for floating solar farms.
The most obvious one is to provide renewable energy to areas that do not have access to lands, such as small islands or densely populated cities.
Another application is to use them as a way to offset the environmental impact of large-scale industrial operations that require a lot of water, such as power plants or mining operations.
Floating Solar Panels Advantages And Disadvantages
- No loss of land space.
- Avoids overheating.
- Efficient cooling.
- Reduced evaporation.
- Aesthetically pleasing.
No loss of land space
The great thing about floating solar farms is that they don’t require the use of land, which means that they can be built in areas where there is no space for traditional solar farms.
They can also be built on top of existing bodies of water, such as reservoirs, which would otherwise go unused.
Compare this to ground-mounted solar systems, which can take up a large amount of space, and you can see the advantage that floating solar farms have.
Solar panels can overheat when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. This reduces their efficiency and can cause them to break down over time.
Floating solar panels are less likely to overheat because the water underneath them acts as a natural cooling system.
The water helps to regulate the temperature of the panels, keeping them at a consistent temperature and preventing them from overheating.
The cooling effect of the water also makes floating solar panels more efficient than land-based systems.
The cooler the panels are, the more efficiently they can convert sunlight into electricity.
Another advantage of using floating solar farms is that they can help to reduce evaporation from reservoirs and other bodies of water.
The solar panels provide shade for the water, which helps to keep it cool and reduces evaporation.
Floating solar farms can also be aesthetically pleasing. They can be designed to blend in with their surroundings or to stand out as a visual statement.
- High initial cost.
- Limited Application
- High requirements for the racking system
- Maintaining water quality.
High initial cost
The initial cost of installing floating solar panel arrays is often higher than the cost of installing land-based systems.
This is because the floating arrays require specialized hardware and installation techniques.
Floating solar farms are not suitable for all applications. They are best suited for large bodies of water, such as reservoirs, lakes, and irrigation ponds.
They are not suitable for use in saltwater or in areas with strong waves or currents.
This is where roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar systems really come into their own.
The fact that there are so many use cases for solar panels on land means that the technology is much more widely applicable.
High requirements for the racking system
The floating solar array must be securely anchored to the bottom of the body of water to prevent it from moving around or breaking free in high winds.
This requires a strong and durable racking system that can withstand the elements.
Maintaining water quality
It is important to maintain the quality of the water in a floating solar farm. The solar panels can block sunlight from reaching the bottom of the body of water, which can affect plant and animal life.
It is also important to prevent leaking or spillage of chemicals used to clean the panels.
Floating Solar Panels Market Size
The global floating solar panels market was worth $30.16 million in 2021 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.5% from 2022 to 2030 (grandviewresearch.com).
The world’s largest floating solar farm is Huaneng Power International, which has put up a 320 MW floating photovoltaic array in China’s Shandong province.
It installed the plant in two phases on a reservoir near its 2.65 GW Dezhou thermal power station.
South Korea is constructing the world’s largest floating solar power plant on a tidal flat in the Yellow Sea, near Saemangeum.
The 2.1GW floating solar farm is part of South Korea’s megawatt-scale renewable energy project in the Yellow Sea, which includes a potential 3GW capacity.
The development will provide enough electricity to serve 1.6 million homes.
Where are Floating Solar Panels situated?
Floating solar panel farms are generally positioned on platforms moored on calmer bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, or reservoirs. They can also be deployed in open waters, though.
Floating Solar Panels Ocean
Finding the right location for a floating solar panel array is one of the main challenges.
The water must be deep enough to allow for the installation of the platform, and it must be free of debris that could damage the panels.
The location must also have good access to sunlight and be close to an electrical grid connection.
Another challenge is preventing the growth of algae and other aquatic life on the underside of the solar panels. This can reduce the efficiency of the panels and cause them to overheat.
Floating Solar Panels Environmental Impact
The environmental benefits of floating-PV include reduced land area usage, but solar panels can also provide surface shade and water cover, lowering water evaporation.
This could be particularly useful in arid regions where there is a lot of water evaporating from reservoirs than humans using them.
Floating Solar Panels For Swimming Pools
On a much smaller scale, domestic homeowners with a swimming pool can purchase a floating solar heater. This can be used to heat the water in the pool, reducing the need for a gas or electric heater.
Floating Solar Panels Future
The future of floating solar panel technology looks promising. The increased interest in renewable energy, coupled with advances in technology, will continue to drive down costs and increase efficiency.
As more countries look to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, floating solar farms are likely to become more common.
Does floating solar make sense for homeowners?
Unfortunately, it does not. The main issue is that for a homeowner, the investment in a floating solar array would be very high. Additionally, most homeowners do not have a body of water on their property that would be suitable for a floating array.
Are floating solar arrays environmentally friendly?
Yes, they are. Floating solar arrays can help to reduce evaporation from reservoirs and other bodies of water. The solar panels provide shade for the water, which helps to keep it cool and reduces evaporation.
How large are floating solar farms?
Floating solar farms range from 5 acres right up to 100 acres. The largest floating solar farm in the world is the Huaneng Power International plant in China, which has a capacity of 320 MW.