The potential for floating solar in Southeast Asia


Floating photovoltaics offer a promising renewable energy solution to address land-use constraints in electricity generation. The technology holds particular significance for land-scarce countries, including numerous Southeast Asian island nations, as they seek to transition to emission-free economies.

NREL collaborated with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission for Asia to assess the technical potential of floating PV throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN has set a goal of achieving 35% installed capacity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

NREL has assessed the technical potential of floating photovoltaics (FPV) in 10 ASEAN countries, using a solar data explorer tool.

“[Floating PV] arrays are situated on water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, or water treatment ponds, where they can be installed alone or in combination with hydropower dams,” said NREL.  

NREL said floating PV is particularly attractive in locations where hydropower infrastructure is planned or already in place and increased frequency or severity of drought may raise pose reliability concerns for hydropower production. Southeast Asia is particularly exposed to this hydropower underproduction risk as it has a strong network of established facilities.

“Additionally, much of the region is covered by rainforest ecosystems,” said Evan Rosenlieb, a geospatial data scientist for NREL. “Siting PV on water can be a way to increase renewable energy generation without deforestation.” 

Southeast Asia is also a hotbed for the growing practice of aquaculture, or raising fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plants in a controlled water body. These sites are targeted as another potential match for floating PV. 

“This emerging combination of aquaculture and photovoltaics, commonly referred to as AquaPV, can allow countries to co-locate energy and food production on existing natural or artificially created water bodies while minimizing the overall environmental impact of both sectors,” said Prateek Joshi, NREL energy engineer.

Joshi and the NREL team said aquaculture and solar may help boost food security in the region, offering dedicated, resilient energy production to critical food sources.

The data accompanying the report are publicly available as a resource for developers interested in learning more about the technical and economic potential of floating PV in the region.

“This data will lead to more discussions and can inform decisions on the potential role of [floating PV] in the region. It wouldn’t have been possible without all the existing work of previous [floating PV] studies and previous RE Data Explorer tool development,” Sika Gadzanku, the NREL energy technology and policy researcher.

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