Solar energy is expanding yet again. From solar curtains, clothes, panels and window films we now have another avenue to generate energy from the sun.
If you think about it, it makes sense that floating photovoltaic systems would first emerge in population-dense Japan. While the United States soon followed with a commercial installation atop a reservoir near a California winery in 2008, it was China who began really driving the floating solar farm growth. As of now, they are home to the largest floating solar farm in the world, concentrated in Anhui Province atop flooded former coal mines.
Many experts now believe that if photovoltaic panels are placed on reservoirs and other water bodies, they offer even greater efficiency than traditional solar panels, and come with many other benefits – like taking up less space.
For one thing, the installation costs of floating photovoltaic panels are less than land-based photovoltaic panels. Also, research showed that the power production of floating solar panels is greater by up to 10% due to the cooling effect of water.
Some interesting, if unexpected, benefits are that floating solar farms reduce the loss of water to evaporation, prevent algae production, and lower water treatment costs.
So, what is the market potential of floating solar farms? Because there are more than 400,000 square kilometers of man-made reservoirs in the world, which the World Bank report says could support at least 400 gigawatts of sun-powered energy, it is, well huge. (Currently, only about 1.1 gigawatts worth of floating solar panels have been installed around the planet.) Put another way, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that installing floating solar photovoltaics on the more than 24,000 man-made U.S. reservoirs could eventually generate about 10% of the country’s annual electricity production.
While time will tell what the future of floating solar farms really is, one expert valued floating solar industry at $800 million in 2016 with a expectation of $2 billion by 2025. That’s some serious potential!
This article is brought to you by Blue Sky Solar and Roofing, a solar and roofing restoration company with offices in Dallas, Texas, and Denver, Colorado. Blue Sky specializes in solar roofing, sustainable roofing options and excellent customer service.