Awareness

Pros And Cons Of Solar On Water

Floating Solar on Water

The world has huge unmet energy needs and with a large and increasing population, this power demand will keep on rising. Almost three fourths of the earth’s surface is covered with water. A huge proportion water area is getting wasted and is drying up due to increased global warming and climate change conditions. One of the major reasons of using floating solar on water technology is the reduction in usage of expensive land which can be put to better use for other purposes. Furthermore, floating solar panel system technology can convert wastewater bodies into potential revenue generators.

In the article below, we have analysed the pros and cons of Floating Solar on Water technology in light of its usage and installations.

Pros

No Real Estate Cost – One of the biggest advantages of floating solar on water technology is that it does not use up expensive land which is highly precious in certain geographies. Floating Solar Panels free up land in countries which have densely populated cities and limited agricultural land. Savings on real estate cost is one of the major reasons that floating solar on water technology is gaining traction, especially in developing economies. Waste water bodies can also be utilized for installing floating solar panels, converting them into revenue generators.

Negligible Cleaning Costs – A major headache with solar panel plants is its cleaning. Cleaning costs can be quite high as solar panel systems cover a large area and hence cleaning them is a painstaking task. Many installed PV plants generate much lower power than what they can as they aren’t properly cleaned. There are firms that engage in just cleaning the solar panels. In countries like India where labour is cheap, people are employed just for cleaning the panels. One of the major advantages of floating solar on water is that it does not involve any cleaning cost as it is naturally cleaned by water in its surroundings.

Higher efficiency than ground mounted solar systems - An average solar panel can convert between 16-20% of solar energy into electricity. Floating solar on water has better efficiency because they benefit from additional diffuse irradiation from surface reflections. Efficiency of solar panels also reduces due to higher temperatures. Floating solar on water performs better because of the cooling effect of water in the surroundings. These two factors go hand in hand in improving the overall efficiency of the floating solar panels. In fact, a floating solar project reported an improvement of over 10% in its performance when compared to a similar solar ground mounted system.

Water Conservation – Floating solar on water technology is supportive of the environment as it reduces evaporation and checks on algae growth. They are eco-friendly, reduce water evaporation from water bodies and also minimize the risk of solar cell performance atrophy. Water is a scarce resource and with global warming we are losing water due to excessive evaporation. It is estimated that one square metre of water surface covered by floating solar panels could save more than 1,000 litres of water annually.

Cons

Higher Capex – Floating solar technology requires specialized installation and equipment which raises the overall cost of installation. In fact, according to industry estimates a floating solar system could cost about 25% more (than land-based systems) due to the floats, moorings and additional DC cabling required.

Higher Maintenance Cost –Though a floating solar system does not require metal frames unlike those used in land-based PV systems for fixing to the ground, maintenance costs are also high in general. In case of any power interruption, boats or even divers would be required which will lead to higher operational and maintenance costs. This problem is largely addressed by our product which provides an integrated walkway within the product design to ensure that the solar panel performance is not adversely impacted during periods when human intervention is required for operations and maintenance.

Increased Transmission Costs – Floating solar on water technology also requires transmission infrastructure in the form of underwater cables which leads to cost escalation. Some developers prefer to place the solar inverters on land which leads to higher cable costs and increased transmission losses.

Can Disturb Aquatic Life – The overall water ecology can be adversely affected due to shading caused by floating solar panels. Anchors and mooring systems’ chain touching the water bed also have a small impact on aquatic life.

Savings on no Solar Tracking System – Though a floating solar panel system saves on extra investment by foregoing a solar tracking system, it also loses on the efficiency advantage. Solar Tracking system has become an essential component of a ground mounted PV system as it enhances the power generating capacity. Development of solar-tracking floating PV system that changes the tilt angle required for maximum generation could completely revolutionize floating solar on water technology. Our product is uniquely designed keeping in mind that solar panels need to be installed at an angle to catch and convert maximum sunlight and hence optimize power generation.

Other Water related problems – Water surroundings can accelerate corrosion problems of solar panels. Fog due to evaporation and subsequent condensation on the panels’ surface can obstruct light arriving at the panels and reduce output. The performance of floating solar on water technology can also be greatly impacted by extreme winds during severe storms, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. Hence, these systems need to be constructed to withstand the high load in such situations. Floating structures available in the market are designed to withstand salt and mist corrosion, waves up to a height of 2 metres and winds up to 190km/h.

Conclusion

Even though the initial cost of installation of floating solar system is higher than ground-mounted PV systems, its ability in reducing water evaporation in drought stricken areas is highly valuable. Floating solar on water technology is an eco-friendly way towards water conservation and generation of green power. It is finding increase application in aquaculture farms and effluent treatment centres especially in far-off areas not connected to the grid. With proper government upport and public awareness, the floating solar technology can prove to be a revolutionary as it could solve the persistent problem of land availability for solar installations.

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