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Energy

157: Floating solar farms

Problem:

Land-based solar farms take up space which can otherwise be used for precision agriculture, industry and housing.

Solution:

Putting them on water makes floating solar panels up to 16 % more efficient and longer lasting. The lack of dust means it can stay clean longer while water can be used to clean the panels.


Since 2017, the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm is located 5 km southwest of Nihe Town, Huainan city in China’s Anhui province. The array consisting of 166,000 panels, built by Sungrow Power Supply floats on an artificial lake on the site of a former coal mine.

Its capacity of 40 MW produces enough energy to power 15,000 homes. According to The Japan Times, the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm is ‘part of Beijing’s effort to wean itself off a fossil fuel dependency.

In France, in 2007, IT engineer Eric Scott founded Akuo Energy which has since become France’s leading renewable energy producer such as wind, sun, water, and bio-gas, present in thirty countries, via 17 subsidiaries.

From 2014 Akuo planned a floating solar farm project Hydrelio by Ciel and Terre floats for installation in town of Piolenc, in the department of Vaucluse. The site chosen to be filled with water was a former aggregate quarry in nearby Curbans.

Akuo Energy and the quarry operator worked together with Bouygues Energies Services in the restoration of the site with the solar farm to allow the transition from one activity to another and the ecological rehabilitation of the site.

Covering 42 ac (17 ha), 47,040 PV panels placed on 52,000 floats themselves anchored by 350 anchors at the bottom of the lake of 23 ha. The largest solar farm in Europe, the 16 MW from O’Mega officially launched in March 2019 is providing electricity for over 4,733 households and avoiding the emission of 1,208 tons (1,096 tonnes) of CO₂.

In 2019, Thailand’s state utility, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), has drawn up ambitious plans to construct 16 floating solar farms with a combined capacity of more than 2.7 gigawatts at nine hydropower reservoirs across the country by 2037.

SCG Chemicals is undertaking research and development at its factory at Rayong, 106 mi (170 km) from the capital Bangkok. The first floating solar farm is planned for the Sirindhorn Dam at Ubon Ratchathani in east Thailand. (egat.co.th)

Elsewhere, in South Korea there is a rotating floating solar powerplant with 16 modules installed on a floating deck. There is one beside the Banasura Sagar Dam, in Kerala, India. Another is located on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan, and another at Tengeh Reservoir in Singapore. South Korea will build a 2.1 gigawatt (GW) floating solar farm on a lake next to Saemangeum, a reclaimed area on the west coast

The plant will cover 11.6 mi.² (30 km²) of the lake, which is adjacent to a site where an international airport will be built. It is expected to produce enough electricity for 1 million households.

The project is expected to bring the government closer to the goal of its renewable energy initiative, which aims to nearly triple the portion of renewable energy to 20 % by 2030. The planned solar power farm is expected to require more than 5 million solar power modules and create 1.60 million jobs a year. Work on the solar farm is expected to start in the latter half of 2020.

In 2017, researchers at University of California, Riverside identified equivalent of 183,000 football fields of non-agricultural land in California’s Central Valley for future solar farms. (ucr.edu) At the beginning of 2018, some 60 floating solar farms of over 1 MW had been installed around the world.

Their combined capacity is still very small, totalling less than 200 MW (the equivalent of a large land-based solar farm – enough to provide energy to around 200,000 people.

Solarplaza’s Top 200 floating solar plants shows that China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are leading the pack, however, with many projects under development in countries such as India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France, and the United States, deployment is accelerating globally.

A team from Michigan State University believes that the creation of floating solar farms on existing reservoirs in Brazil would make up for the underproduction of the existing hydropower systems on the Amazon River and even the construction of new ones.

The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat. Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power?

Installing floating solar PV arrays, sometimes called “floatovoltaics,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expanses of water from the hot desert sun.

Discover Solution 158: Solar farms and global cooling

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