Floatovoltaics – Floating Solar Power Could Help Fight Climate Change

  • By: David
  • Date: August 10, 2022
  • Time to read: 9 min.

There’s no question that we need to find ways to generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases. But as we move to deploy solar panels on a large scale, we need to be mindful of the potential impacts on the environment and society.

Floating Solar Power Could Help Fight Climate Change

Floatovoltaics offer one potential solution. By installing solar panels on top of hydropower reservoirs, we could generate a significant amount of electricity with minimal impact on land use. But floatovoltaics are not without their own environmental and social challenges – from creating barriers to fish migration to displacing local communities. We need to assess these challenges before moving forward with large-scale deployments carefully. Otherwise, we risk trading one set of problems for another.

As the world looks for ways to increase renewable energy production, one emerging solution is to deploy floating solar panels (‘floatovoltaics’) on reservoirs. The idea of floatovoltaics holds much promise, and there has been a rapid rise in installation and investments. But there are still many unknowns about the technology’s environmental impacts and social, technical, and economic dimensions.

These knowledge gaps need to be filled as soon as possible to avoid overpromising on the benefits of this approach or having its roll-out derailed by unforeseen roadblocks. Nevertheless, floatovoltaics offer a potentially game-changing solution to our energy needs, and we must continue to explore its potential.

Solar Power Is Space-Intensive

The old adage “go big or go home” applies to solar power. Solar farms can cover hundreds of acres, and even the most minor residential installation requires a fair amount of space.

This often surprises people who mistakenly believe that solar panels are only a few feet wide. In reality, most commercial panels are around six feet wide and require a significant amount of spacing between each one to allow for proper ventilation. As a result, solar power is not the best choice for cramped urban environments. But solar is a great way to go green for those with plenty of space to spare.

Solar power is an increasingly popular renewable energy source, but it is not without its drawbacks. One of the most significant disadvantages of solar power is that it is space-intensive, requiring a large amount of land to generate even a tiny amount of electricity. For example, to produce one gigawatt (GW) of electricity, a solar power plant would need to cover an area of approximately 20 square miles. This has led to debate over where these large installations should be built.

Some have suggested deserts, as they receive plenty of sunlight, and there is often little else competing for the land. However, even in these ideal locations, there are potential problems. For example, studies have shown that the dark color of solar panels can alter local temperatures and cause droughts in other parts of the world.

Additionally, solar power developments have already begun to encroachment on Native American land in the southwestern United States. Ultimately, while solar power offers many advantages, its disadvantages must also be considered before large-scale installations are built.

Agrivoltaic

When it comes to solar power, there are plenty of opportunities for improvement. One promising possibility is the agricultural field, though researchers are just beginning to understand how solar panels and crops will interact in so-called “agrivoltaic” systems. Another potential location is atop reservoirs, which could have many advantages. The arrays would be anchored through mooring lines, and the proximity to water would keep them cool. Not to mention, the collections would shield the surface from the sun and might reduce evaporation. All in all, it seems like placing solar arrays on reservoirs could have a lot of benefits.

If you’re looking for a renewable energy source that’s both clean and efficient, hydropower is hard to beat. And if you’re looking for a way to make hydropower even more efficient, solar power is the answer. That’s because solar power can supplement hydropower when sunlight is weak and store potential energy in reservoirs when solar-power production is high.

And because many hydropower plants are already equipped with the grid infrastructure for conveying electricity to consumers, pairing solar with hydropower could also reduce transmission costs. So if you’re looking for a clean, efficient, and cost-effective way to produce energy, solar-powered hydropower is the way.

Hydroelectric Dam

Imagine a hydroelectric dam, but instead of a giant concrete wall holding back a raging river, there’s just…a bunch of solar panels floating on top of the water. That’s the basic idea behind floatovoltaics, which could be a game-changer for renewable energy production.

Floatovoltaics take advantage of the fact that water bodies are prime real estate for solar panels — they get plenty of sunlight and have ample space for large arrays. And since the seminars are floating, they don’t require any land clearing or other disruptive construction.

Floatovoltaics

Floatovoltaics Reduce Hydropower Operations’ Carbon Intensity

Perhaps most importantly, floatovoltaics could help reduce some hydropower operations’ carbon intensity. By capturing solar energy, floatovoltaics could supplement or even replace the power generated by hydropower dams, leading to cleaner energy production overall. It’s an elegant solution to a complex problem and might be the key to unlocking renewable energy’s full potential.

Floatovoltaics Has a Small Footprint (Today)

The potential for floating solar panels is massive – quite literally. 10% of the world’s hydropower reservoirs covered in floating solar panels would install nearly 4,000 gigawatts of solar capacity. That’s equal to the electricity-generation power of all fossil-fuel plants worldwide.

So why don’t we see more floatovoltaics out there? Maybe it’s because they’ve only been around since 2006, and we’re still getting used to the idea of solar panels…floating on water. It’s a bit of an odd concept, but one that could very well be the future of energy production. So don’t be surprised if you start seeing more and more floatovoltaics in the years to come.

Murphy’s Law states that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” But what if there was a technology that could help us utilize one of the world’s most abundant natural resources and turn it into a renewable energy source? Enter floatovoltaics.

Floatovoltaics are unique solar panels that are mounted on rafts and anchored to the floor of a body of water. Not only do they have the potential to produce vast amounts of clean energy, but they also help to prevent evaporation and can even provide shade for fish farming operations.

And while they may be more expensive than land-based solar panels at the moment, the cost difference is only 4-8%. With the market for floatovoltaics growing fast, it’s only a matter of time before this technology becomes mainstream. So let’s all raise a glass to Murphy’s Law for once, because without it we might never haveFloatovoltaic power!

Any new energy technology can have unforeseen consequences. As we know from example, wind turbines have harmed birds and bats, and their installation offshore can create noise pollution for marine life, interfere with whale migrations and pose complications for commercial fisheries. These are reasons to be cautious when rapidly scaling up any new energy technology.

That being said, there are always trade-offs to consider. For example, the expansion of floatovoltaics may offer some environmental benefits, but it could also cause Social and economic goals to remain largely unexplored in both concept and practice. In many places, reservoirs provide habitats for wildlife and have an essential role in fisheries and recreation.

Reservoir management often serves many needs besides water supply, such as flood control and hydropower. So while there may be some negatives associated with rapidly scaling-up new energy technologies, there are also potential positives that must be considered.

Brazil’s Floatovoltaic Boom

Brazil is one of the countries leading the way in floatovoltaic development. In 2016, the country’s National Energy Agency (ANEEL) released new guidelines for floating solar PV plants, and since then the industry has taken off.

One of the reasons for Brazil’s success is its ample sunlight. The country has a long coastline and plenty of inland waterways, which make it an ideal location for large-scale floatovoltaic installations.

And thanks to Brazil’s growing economy, there is now a strong demand for renewable energy. Floating solar PV plants are a perfect solution for meeting this demand while reducing carbon emissions.

Brazil’s Floatovoltaic Boom

So far, Brazil has installed more than 150 megawatts of floatovoltaic capacity, and there are plans to install another 1,000 megawatts shortly. This is just the beginning of Brazil’s floatovoltaic boom.

A recent decision by Brazil’s National Electric Energy Agency is a big win for floatovoltaics and should make hydropower producers more likely to install renewable energy technology.

The agency approved a resolution regulating the joint operation of hydropower and floatovoltaic plants, with the energy generated by each source measured separately.

The move will allow hydropower producers to sell the energy they generate from floatovoltaics at a higher price, making the technology more attractive. Floatovoltaics have several advantages over traditional solar panels, including generating electricity even when it’s cloudy and less land-intensive. With the Brazilian government giving the green light to joint operations, we could see a big increase in the use of floatovoltaics in the country.

The Energy Relocation Mechanism was designed as a hedge against hydrological risk. But it means that a plant installing floatovoltaics would share its gains with all hydropower producers in the country. The new resolution splits those energy markets. The Brazilian electricity sector is characterized by significant hydrological risk. To mitigate this risk, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies issued Resolution No. 484/2017, which mandated the formation of the Energy Relocation Mechanism (ERM). The ERM system allows for the remuneration of hydropower plants according to their share of nationwide hydropower production rather than the energy they produce.

This system protected Brazil’s electricity supply during a drought or natural disaster. However, it also means that any gains made by a plant installing floatovoltaics would be shared with all hydropower producers in the country. In response to this problem, the Brazilian government has issued a new resolution that splits the energy markets.

This will allow for floatovoltaic plants to be reimbursed according to their actual production rather than their share of nationwide hydropower production. This change will incentivize the development of floatovoltaics in Brazil and help to mitigate the risk of energy shortages in the event of a drought or other natural disaster.

After that, Brazil’s Congress enacted Federal Law 14300 in 2022, which authorizes small-scale floatovoltaics to operate in the decentralized generation market. Specific environmental regulations are still needed to maximize operations’ sustainability and gain investors’ confidence.

From Photovoltaics to Floatovoltaics

While many believe solar panels are the most sustainable way to generate electricity, floatovoltaics may be a more eco-friendly option. Floatovoltaics are solar panels that are mounted on buoys or floating platforms. This system can be used in fresh and salt water, making it a versatile option for generating electricity.

Additionally, floatovoltaics have a smaller footprint than traditional solar panels, as they can be installed in bodies of water rather than on land. As the demand for renewable energy increases, floatovoltaics may become an increasingly popular option for generating electricity.

Just as humans have evolved to adapt to their environment, so too must our technology. As our climate changes and we experience more extreme weather conditions, we must find new ways to generate power that are both efficient and reliable.

Floatovoltaics offer a promising solution, providing a sustainable source of energy that can be used even in areas with limited space or resources. However, it is essential to note that floatovoltaics will not be a panacea for all our energy needs; in some cases, other forms of solar power will still be required. But floatovoltaics offer a versatile and flexible option that could help us meet our energy needs in a rapidly changing world.

Conclusion

Solar power is a clean and efficient renewable energy source, but there are some disadvantages to consider before large-scale installations are built. One concern is that solar panels can alter local temperatures and cause droughts in other parts of the world. Additionally, solar power developments have already encroached on Native American land in the southwestern United States.

Ultimately, while solar power offers many advantages, its disadvantages must also be considered before large-scale installations are built.

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