By Ariana Nieves,
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
Solar panels can float on water now. Floating solar panels (also known as floating photovoltaic (FPV) or floatovoltaics) are solar panels that sit on top of calm bodies of water. The panels are attached to platforms that float on top of the water’s surface. Electricity is transmitted through underwater cables to a transmission tower. The panels must be dustproof, lead-free, highly humidity resistant and well protected against water.
These water-bound panels offer many new advantages compared to their land counterparts and could be the future of solar energy. Experts say waterborne solar panels could generate as much as 10,600 TWh annually. Here are the top 5 advantages of floating photovoltaics.
1. Don’t Require Land Space
Placing solar panels in water reserves valuable land space that people can utilize for other essential needs such as farming or housing. It also gives the option to leave land untouched and provides space to reforest and help decarbonization efforts.
2. Utilizes Unused Water Space
Floatovoltaics can be used on bodies of water such as wastewater treatment plants, drinking water reservoirs, or hydroelectric dam reservoirs. The installations help maximize the use of these spaces and avoid causing sensitive impacts on pond or lake ecosystems. Opting to build on manufactured bodies of water also grants perks like being able to plug into existing powerplants to create simplicity and synergy.
3. Generate More Electricity
Floating solar panels can generate more power than their land counterparts due to the cooling effects of water. Being in proximity to water helps the solar panels to stay cool and allows them to absorb more solar energy. Researchers say covering 10 percent of the world’s hydropower reservoirs with floating photovoltaics could generate as much electricity as all the world’s operating fossil fuel power plants combined!
4. Reduce Evaporation
The panels also help reduce evaporation; the solar panels sitting on top of the water helps retain it. This effect is excellent for floatovoltaics on drinking water reservoirs as it provides more water for communities. It is a great option, especially for drought-stricken areas such as California.
5. Good for Large Electricity Sources
Floating solar panels can supply electricity to large companies, communities, or utility companies. The U.S army is currently utilizing floating photovoltaics in a base in North Carolina that can power 190 homes!
There are many benefits to floating solar panels, and they are becoming increasingly popular. There are various floatovoltaic panel installations worldwide and even within the U.S. The most extensive floating photovoltaic array in America is located in Sayreville, New Jersey, and many other states have installation plans. For example, California plans to pilot a project to line irrigation canals with floating solar panels. Many places are considering this new alternative, and floatovoltaics could very well be the future of solar.
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