Is floating solar PV the future? 


What are floatovoltaics? Floatovoltaics, floating solar plants, or FSPV (floating solar photovoltaics) as they are acronymed, are panel structures that are installed on water bodies like lakes, basins, and reservoirs instead of solid structures like roofs or terraces. The biggest impetus behind the rise of large-scale FSPV has been that it doesn’t take up any land space, which could be then used for construction and agriculture.

The dawn, the rise 

The world’s first large-scale FSPV system was installed in 2011, in Napa Valley, California. Since then, there has been no turning back. It is predicted by 2025 we would have 10 GW of capacity installed.

In recent years, floating solar power plants have become part of India’s plans for solar expansion. According to a 2020 study by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), reservoirs cover 18,000 sq km in India and can generate 280 GW through floating solar panels.

Did you know?

Currently, less than 1% of solar installations are floating!

The largest floating solar power plant in India is currently the Ramagundam in the Peddapalli district of Telangana, with a capacity of 100 MW.

Currently, a 600 MW floating solar plant is being built on the Omkareshwar Dam in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, which, when operational, will purportedly be the largest floating solar power plant in the world. The project is touted to be worth INR 3,000 crore.

The pros, the cons

One exciting thing about floatovoltaics is that it doesn’t occupy land, which could be used for other purposes. But it is much costlier than land-based solutions, about 15 to 30% more than its terrestrial counterparts. And it is usually done for government projects, corporates, and commercial entities.

The water beneath the solar modules provides a cooling effect to the modules, resulting in much more improved efficiency than their terrestrial counterparts.

But one of the pitfalls is that the algae and other aquatic life get affected, because of the lack of direct sunlight that they thrive upon.

There are also a lot of maintenance issues associated with floating plants. Special care must be taken to ensure electrical safety.

The major impediments are the high cost of materials and the complex installation involved.

In the near future, you’ll definitely see a surge of this out-of-the-box, creative way of energy generation. The global market of floating solar is expected to grow by a fifth to $180 million by the year 2050.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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