Awareness

Benefits Of Floating Solar Panels In Drought Striken Areas

Introduction

Floating solar panels solution offers an attractive option to free up extra space on land which can be put to alternative use in countries which have densely populated cities and limited agricultural land.

One of the main advantages of installing floating solar panels is that the technology in general is supportive of the ecology of water bodies as it reduces evaporation and also puts a check on algae growth. Countries which face frequent water shortages should look at adopting floating solar panels not only because it is getting cheaper but also because it is an eco-friendly way towards water conservation and generation of free power.

Incidence of Drought has Increased Recently

With growing climate change concerns, the incidence of drought has become increasingly frequent worldwide. There are more than 100 on going floating solar projects varying in size ranging from a few kW to multi MW projects. Over last the few years, droughts have become more severe and last longer. Many regions in the USA, Middle East, Asia, and Africa are experiencing harsher drought conditions which have adversely impacted availability of drinking water supplies.

With climate change expected to worsen with each passing year, strategic measures need to be enacted for water conservation. Temporary water conservation, water transfers, and increased use of groundwater are some of the alternatives. While these measures do help, installing floating solar panels is a better longer term structural solution to fight the challenge posed by droughts.

How Drought Stricken Areas Could Benefits from Floating Solar Panels

Solar radiation plays a major role in the evaporation of water from lakes and rivers. What if this radiation was made to work in conserving this water instead of playing a big role in its wastage? The powerful radiation from the sun can be utilized to save the water. The installation of floating solar panels can achieve this result by not only saving water through shading but also generate power.

It can reduce evaporation by as much as 90% in dry climates. This technology can be a win-win case in drought prone areas, as water conservation and energy production can work simultaneously.

Industry experts have estimated that covering just 6% of Lake Mead (Hoover Dam) with floating solar panels could reduce 90% in surface-water evaporation on that portion. In India alone, water bodies lose between 0.75m and 3.0m of water due to evaporation per year. Floating solar panels covering just 1 square metre could result in more than 1,000 litres in water savings annually. In a dry climate like South Australia that would tantamount to about 2.5 metres of water savings each year.

Floating Solar Panels Is An Attractive Alternative

The problem of drought has become so acute these days that people have resorted to various measures such as water rationing and desalination among others. Cape Town in South Africa is facing a severe water shortage resulting in strict water rationing. The administration of the city is being forced to enact strict measures against residents who are wasting water. Rajkot in Gujarat was another city that faced acute water shortages a couple of summers ago resulting in distress for its residents. Major cities in California in the west have deployed shade balls, which are plastic balls (four inches wide and weighing 245 grams) that block out sunlight.

A shade ball typically costs around USD 36 cents which is expensive than the USD 30-32 cent costs per watt for solar panels and it is expected to fall further. Though floating solar panels installation costs more in the initial year, they come with a long warranty life from the manufacturer. In contrast shade balls need to be replaced in every ten years. In addition, floating solar panels also generate power and help avoid the cost of expensive real estate.

Cost & Benefit

1 MW of floating solar plant is estimated to result in 70,000 kilolitres of water savings in a year. The saving of water is a key benefit of the floating solar panel technology. Though the initial capex and overall cost of energy may be higher for floating solar panels as compared to normal ground mounted / rooftop solar systems, the economic feasibility of floating solar panels is enhanced by the massive savings in water. At the same time the costs of the technology itself are dropping with newer and more efficient players entering the foray determined to resolve the problem affordably. According to a research by Global Market Insights, the floating solar market is estimated to exceed 2.5 GW by 2024 and become a $2.7 billion market by 2025, witnessing significant growth over the next few years.

Application

Farming is one the most impacted applications due to the non-availability of water supplies to meet crop water demands. Floating solar technology can support a Floating Farming system wherein food crops can be grown atop the water body. Thus, installing floating solar panels could result in a two-fold increase in agricultural output by utilizing floating farming system and saving valuable farmland.

Conclusion

Water is a scarce resource and there is an urgent need to conserve it for our future generation. Floating Solar panels technology appears to be the most eco-friendly way to conserve water bodies and also generate electricity. Installing floating solar panels offers an economical and decentralized solution with multiple benefits such as power on site, water evaporation savings and other water remediation possibilities. The technology is slowly but steadily gaining traction and many firms have started to offer floating PV systems on a commercial basis. A rising demand for power that does not use expensive real estate and checks on drought through water conservation are its key USPs.

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