Large Scale Floating Solar Farms Gaining Traction
In one proposal by researchers from Norway and Switzerland, millions of clustered floating islands that convert carbon dioxide to methanol fuel could help reduce the amount of green house gases in the atmosphere. More information on this proposal for “solar methanol islands” can be found in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, PNAS. The idea is to use large scale floating solar farms (solar energy) to recycle atmospheric carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel.
On another front, the company involved in the engineering of Hong Kong’s 17 impounded reservoirs, Black & Veatch (BV), studied the installation of large scale floating solar farms to improve energy efficiency. BV has played a role in developing Hong Kong’s water supply since 1930.
The feasibility study carried out by BV is for the Water Supplies Department of the Hong Kong SAR. Development of large scale floating solar farms could help Hong Kong reduce water loss, suppress algae growth and generate power from renewable resources.
Also, BV provided technical support to the UK’s energy regulator’s review of the Renewables Obligation application for the world’s largest floating solar farm, Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir. At Walton-on-Thames, this project was completed in 2016 for Thames Water. Serving as a portion of the technical evaluation are two floating 100kW photovoltaic (PV) pilot projects. One is located at Shek Pik and a second at the Plover Cove reservoirs, which are under construction.
“Thinking holistically and sustainably – how water, power and all resources are connected – is seeing a wealth of engineering innovation emerge that needs to be properly understood technically and financially. The Water Supplies Department of Hong Kong exemplifies this forward thinking through exploring how it can further secure water supply by reducing evaporation while also creating a new revenue stream by working closely with the electric grid.”
– Alan Man, Vice President and Managing Director of Black & Veatch in Hong Kong
The primary factor driving increased interest in solar energy systems is financial. For everyday folks that own a solar panel system outright the annual returns can be more than 30%, and as high as 10% for those that don’t own the system (leased energy systems). In fact, you may be able to “break even” on a solar investment within 7-8 years. Within 25 years, many will save tens of thousands of dollars on electricity costs (assuming a typical 25 year lifespan of your solar energy system).
The idea of large scale floating solar farms isn’t new. One company known for pioneering floating solar technology is France’s Ciel et Terre, which has installed more than 300 MW of floating solar capacity in Asia, Europe and the Americas. The first commercial installation, placed over an irrigation pond, reportably began operations in 2008 at the Far Niente Winery in California (Source: Floating Solar Projects Gaining Momentum).