Solar on the Water: Will Floating Solar Panels Cause Problems for Waterways?

Floating Solar Panels

Researchers and developers have been searching for new and better ways to work solar panels into our day to day lives. Solar has been proven to be a worthy contender in the search for alternatives to non-renewable energy sources. However, some of the newest developments are still being tested and may have far to go before we can consider them completely safe and practical.

One of the most recent adaptations is the floating solar panel. Also known as floating photovoltaics or FPV, these arrays sit right on the surface of a body of water. They are supported by a buoyant structure that prevents them from sinking. They are typically used on calmer waters like those found in manmade reservoirs, lakes, or ponds.

The Benefits of FPV

Why push for FPVs? The most obvious benefit involves land. Some structures can hold solar panels on rooftops. This is not feasible when constructing a larger array with a higher output. These are usually installed at ground level on frames. They work, but they also take up valuable land area. They also require the demolition of local trees and vegetation, which can be devastating for wildlife.

Putting FPVs on the water eliminates the need to destroy otherwise pristine or usable land. They also have the added benefit of reducing evaporation during warm months, which can lower the risk of harmful algal bloom. The water helps cool the equipment while it works.

The Challenges of FPV

FPV technology sounds great, but it isn’t without its challenges. Specialised equipment is required which comes at a higher cost compared to a land-based installation.

There are also concerns about how the presence of solar panels could affect water quality.

Water supply company Evides Waterbedrijf in the Netherlands believes that it can generate all the power it needs to pump and distribute by installing FPV on 30% of its reservoirs. That could be a huge step in the right direction for the environment.

The company is starting with a 1.62 MW floating solar power plant in Kralingen.

The panels must work and not lower the quality of the drinking water the company supplies. Factors like reduced UV radiation on the water, wind impact, and even bird droppings are all a concern.

If the company finds that the water quality isn’t negatively altered, then they plan to move forward by installing FPV on three other reservoirs.

The Netherlands is home to around 52,000 hectares of shallow pools that could be converted into solar power stations. Not all of them are used to supply drinking water, so quality may not be as big of an issue in those locations.

This is an exciting development for communities that want to go 100% green. Connect Electric will monitor progress and share any updates to Evides Waterbedrijf’s findings or other FPV projects around the world. We still have a long way to go to perfect the way we use solar panels, but these changes make us hopeful for a cleaner future with sustainable energy.