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Floating photovoltaics - A renewable option for otherwise unused water areas

Floating photovoltaics - A renewable option for otherwise unused water areas

Repowering
Development
Photovoltaics

28.02.2023

Alongside ground-mounted and rooftop PV systems, floating solar systems are the third and newest pillar of the global solar PV market. Already in 2020, there were around 350 operational systems in 35 countries with a cumulative capacity of approximately 2.6 GW.

By 2025, it is estimated that there will be around 10 GW of floating solar systems worldwide. The largest systems are being built in Asia and this year a 320 MW floating PV park was commissioned in China, roughly ten times the size of the largest PV system on the ground in this country to date.

Europe is still lagging behind, although there are countries closer to harnessing water for photovoltaics, such as the Netherlands. Here there are several systems of around 10 MW and very recently 2 parks have been completed, one almost 30 MW and one over 40 MW large in Sellingen. Germany includes floating photovoltaics among its priorities for innovation support - so-called innovation tenders for floating solar power plants will also take place in April. In total, the Germans will support 50 MW in this round, but in smaller systems of up to 2 MW.

Although photovoltaic systems on water require an investment of about 25% more than systems on land, floating photovoltaics have a number of undeniable advantages:

  • PV plants do not occupy any land, except for the limited space required to connect the electrical cabinet and the grid.
  • There are no fixed structures, so installation and removal after their useful life is easy.
  • Partially covering the tanks can reduce evaporation of water.
  • Natural cooling from the water surface raises the efficiency of the panels, claimed to be up to 8-10%.

A floating plant can be built as a fixed plant or with trackers, i.e. so that the panels rotate behind the sun, and the acquisition of a tracker for floating plants represents a less substantial increase in price due to the simpler design, while the energy gain can range from 15 to 25%.

Both freshwater areas and the sea are suitable for photovoltaic systems, but in the Czech Republic they will be built mainly on flooded coal mines. This economy is also moving away from coal, so a number of bodies of water have been, are being and will be created, some of which will be used for recreation, but other sites will not shed their role as an energy source. To grasp this opportunity, we have teamed up with Floating Energy, a Dutch company with experience in building floating PV systems in its home market, and together we are preparing to work with some major Czech players to develop floating power plants on water bodies on the scale of several tens of MW.

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