The rise of "Floatovoltaics"

Photo: Thomas Roche CC license

Photo: Thomas Roche CC license

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Solar is getting cheaper and more popular, which means that people are looking for new places to put it. One of the more promising options seems to be in the water. According to Erica Goode from the New York Times floating solar panels (or as one company tradmarked "floatovoltaics") have a lot going for them. They are more efficient (as the water cools the panels), they can protect against algae bloom, they help keep water from evaporating (Los Angeles just spent 34.5 Million to cover a reservoir with plastic balls to reduce evaporation) and they largely remain hidden from view (versus taking up land space). 

There are floating solar installations in Japan, Australia and the United States. At the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture there are solar floating panels and according to Goode: "In two years, if construction goes as planned, 50,904 panels will float atop the reservoir, generating an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours annually, enough electricity to power almost 5,000 homes, according to Kyocera, the company building the solar plant."

According to PV Magazine Brazil has started research on a 10 Megawatt floating PV system. "The project is aiming to evaluate the performance of floating solar arrays installed in the lake of hydroelectric power plants in areas with different climatic regimes. As expected, the energy generated by the panels can supplement the hydroelectric power plants, taking advantage of the transmission structure already installed." In India, where drought is a major issue, there are plans for floating voltaic project on Loktak in the northeastern state of Manipur according to the Environmental Defense Fund

But it isn't just governments that are getting into the act. Napa Valley winery Far Niente in Oakland California has installed them and they expect the cost to be covered in a 12 year period and the panels to last 25+ years (click the image below for a video tour of their project).

So far it seems that reports around sea life and these floating PVs have been fine. With higher energy yields and the ability to reduce water evaporation floating PV panels could be the wave of the future.