Solar parks that float on the water

Solar parks that float on the water

Source: Economía Digital
12/13/2018

The Chinese company Sungrow Power Supply is building what will be the most powerful floating solar plant, with the capacity to generate 150 MW. The same company built and launched the first installation of this type last year. Unlike what is usual, in this type of solar plants the photovoltaic panels are not installed on solid ground, but float on a surface of water.

Although it is true that the economic performance of floating solar plants is somewhat lower than their equivalents installed on land due to the greater complexity and cost of the installation, it is demonstrated that they take advantage of doubly the resources and provide several advantages.

On the one hand, solar panels are more efficient when placed on water than on land. In terrestrial solar plants, the panels are not refrigerated and as they acquire temperature due to the incidence of the sun’s rays – which they use to produce electricity – their efficiency is reduced, so they produce less. In the floating plants, the effect of the heating of the solar thermal radiation is partly counteracted and the solar panels are cooled in two ways: the surrounding water that evaporates reduces the ambient temperature and the excess heat is dissipated through its metallic elements that are in contact with water. Specifically, a solar panel produces up to 10% more electricity due to the effect of evaporative cooling.

Another variable that influences the efficiency of the power plant is the proximity of the mass of water, because it facilitates the cleaning of the surface of the solar panels. And since the solar panels float on the water, the level of the reservoir or the water basin does not affect the production of electricity, explains the company.

And on the other hand, in addition to their efficiency, these plants do not pose a problem of occupation of useful land: solar parks on water surfaces do not prevent the use of water for consumption, irrigation or industry, and instead the surface occupied by a reservoir, for example, is usually wasted space (except in those cases where activities and recreational uses are allowed). Its installation can even be done in water masses that are not suitable for consumption and can’t be used to irrigate crops due to high levels of minerals and chemicals, such as the waters that flood an old coal mine, as is the case of this new solar plant.