Solar energy is now the cheapest source of electricity in the world. But there is one thing that holds this clean power plant back: space, unlike solar farm fossil fuel power plants, requires a lot of space to generate enough electricity to meet demand. Most solar farms are made up of ground-based panels that cover the ground that can be used to grow food or create habitat for wildlife.
Although water and electricity are not usually combined, an increasing number of floating solar farms are being established around the world. Floating solar panels, or floating photovoltaics, are solar panels mounted on a structure that floats on a body of water, usually a reservoir or a lake.
The market for this renewable energy technology has grown rapidly since 2016. The first 20 plants with capacities of a few dozen kWp were built between 2007 and 2013. Installed power reached 3 GW in 2020, with 10 GW predicted by 2025.
1.recent studies have shown the technology generates more electricity compared with rooftop or ground-mounted solar installations. This is thanks to the cooling effect of the water beneath the panels, which can boost how efficiently these systems generate electricity by as much as 12.5%.
2.with floating photovoltaics, you do not require land space. These installations can happen on unused space on water bodies such as wastewater treatment plants, drinking water reservoirs, or hydroelectric dam reservoirs.In addition, installing solar panels on water bodies eliminates the need for deforestation.
3.Reduces water evaporation, which is very important in drought-prone areas.
This technology does not just work for anyone. Many floating solar installations are large-scale, and they provide electricity to large communities, companies, or utility companies.
Solar panels are now the cheapest source of electricity in history, but the cost of a floating system is 20-25% higher than systems on land.
Drought is crippling many hydroelectric dams across Africa, and declining reservoirs are evaporating under the hot sun. So, researchers say, why not hit that sun? Floating solar panels can generate more power to supply existing turbine power lines while also overshadowing water to reduce evaporation losses.
The Africa Plan is the most striking example of the explosion of interest in installing floating solar panels on reservoirs and other waters, such as tidal areas and former floodplains.
Researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, have published a study on the enormous potential of hybrid solar power plants in Africa, the sunniest continent. Lead researcher Rossio Gonzalez Sanchez estimates that covering just 1 percent of the continent’s reservoirs could double their power generation capacity to 58 gigawatts and increase the continent’s total production capacity by a quarter.
Some of the continent’s largest reservoirs can benefit, including the Aswan high on the Nile River in Egypt – which currently loses about a quarter of its annual inflow due to evaporation in the desert sun – the Kariba and Kahura Basa dams in Zambia in South Africa. And Akosombo in Ghana. Sanchez says it will be a cheaper alternative to building new dams, without incurring any of the environmental and social damage caused by flooding.
Africa is severely short of manpower to connect off-grid homes and supply electricity to emerging economies. Hydropower, which has long been one of the mainstays of electricity generation in many countries, is emerging in the face of prolonged drought. But Africa has the most abundant solar resources in the world – usually twice as much as in Europe, Sanchez says. After studying water level data for 146 of the continent’s large reservoirs, he says floating solar panels are a great opportunity to maximize water production.
In addition, shading the surface of the water from the sun reduces evaporation. He estimates that approximately one cubic kilometer of water per year could be saved across the continent, enough to allow hydropower turbines to increase their output by up to 170 gigawatt hours per year.
Floating solar panel shadows can store approximately one cubic kilometer of water per year across Africa.
Kenya currently has plans for three reservoirs on the Tana and Turkul rivers. Other large-scale hydroelectric reservoirs that Sanchez lists as suitable for conversion include the backbone reservoirs of the Kainji Dam in Nigeria, the Mero and Reserve Dam in Sudan, the Boyou in C عte d’Ivoire, the Lagdo in Cameroon, and the Metra in Tanzania.
The installation of floating solar panels is increasing worldwide. Some experts expect it to become the “third pillar” of solar energy soon after being installed on the roof and floor. Frank Hagowitz of the German technology consulting firm Apricum says that today more than 35 countries have 350 floating systems, although most of them are still small. Their total capacity at the end of last year was only 2.6 GW.
More than a decade ago, Japan pioneered the idea on a research scale. Since then, China has been at the forefront. The world’s largest collection of floating solar panels is currently in the former flooded coal mines in Anhui in eastern China with a capacity of 150 MW. But interest is growing elsewhere in Asia.
Singapore has one of the largest floating solar panel farms in the world.
The farm covers an area of 45 football fields and generates enough electricity to power the island’s five water treatment plants.
The maximum power of this farm is 60 MW.
The solar farm could help reduce carbon emissions by about 32 kilotons a year, compared with 7,000 vehicles off the road.
More than 92,000 solar panels in the shape of plum blossoms, floating on the surface of a reservoir in South Korea, offer a vision of how land-scarce developed nations can overcome local resistance to giant renewable-energy projects.
The 17 giant flowers on the 12-mile-long reservoir in the southern county of Hapcheon are able to generate 41 megawatts, enough to power 20,000 homes, according to Hanwha Solutions, which built the plant.
It’s one of the biggest floating solar plants in the world, and it’s in a nation that has been a laggard in adopting renewable energy, even though South Korea’s industrialized economy relies heavily on imported fossil fuels.
“South Korea needs a massive amount of renewable energy to meet its climate target, and floating solar can be a part of the solution,” because it faces less opposition from residents and doesn’t use land, says Kim Jiseok of Greenpeace Korea.
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