Editorial Feature

The Advantages and Challenges of Floating Solar Panels

As the world races toward sustainable energy solutions, floating solar panels emerge as a game-changing innovation. The largest floating solar project, nearing completion in China, exemplifies this shift. This article delves into the advantages and challenges of floating solar technology, highlighting how it leverages the sun's power on water and its potential environmental impact.

floating solar panels

Image Credit: ungvar/Shutterstock.com

Harnessing Nature's Bounty on Water

The world's largest floating solar project in China, nearing completion with a 150 MW capacity, is revolutionizing water-based solar power generation.

Floating solar farms offer distinct advantages over traditional solar installations, such as reduced water evaporation, cooler operating temperatures, and land conservation.

They also support ecological balance by mitigating algae growth in water bodies and allowing for the coexistence of aquaculture.

These projects promise higher energy efficiency due to the cooling effect of water and reduced land use conflicts. However, challenges like potential impacts on marine ecosystems and maintenance complexity remain.

Research indicates that deploying floating photovoltaics (FPV) on just 1% of the world’s reservoirs could generate 404 GWp of clean energy (Amer et al., 2023). FPV systems also aid in water conservation and are a viable solution in water-scarce regions.

Despite their benefits, there are concerns about FPV's effects on water quality and aquatic ecosystems, necessitating focused research for environmental sustainability.

Cutting-Edge Technology Above and Below the Surface

Floating solar panels, such as those by LESSO Solar Panel, incorporate advanced technologies like multi-busbar (MBB) half-cut cell technology, enhancing efficiency and durability. LESSO's stringent raw material control and process optimization improve resistance against Potential Induced Degradation (PID).

These panels are rigorously tested for resilience against environmental stressors, featuring lower Light Induced Degradation (LID) due to reduced oxygen and carbon content. Their design also ensures higher power output and lower Balance of System (BOS) costs.

Despite their advancements, floating solar panels face challenges like the need for materials that withstand aquatic environments and complex underwater cabling. LESSO Solar's expected global capacity expansion to over 15 GW for solar panels and 6 GW for solar cells by 2023 highlights the sector's growth. The potential of FPV to contribute significantly to the net-zero emissions goal is evident, with its capacity to produce substantial clean energy.

Potential Environmental Impacts and Mitigation Strategies for Floating Solar Panels

Floating solar panels offer significant benefits in power generation and water conservation but also present environmental challenges. One concern is their potential impact on water quality and aquatic life, as they might reduce oxygen levels in water bodies, potentially affecting fish populations.

While these panels help conserve water by reducing evaporation, they could alter the local microclimate and impact nearby ecosystems. Ecological consequences include potentially reducing oxygen levels in water bodies, which could adversely affect fish populations, and concern that these panels may harm water quality.

Addressing these environmental challenges, Sika Gadzanku, an energy technology and policy researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, emphasizes the need for more research: "We really need additional research on what some of the potential impacts are, thinking about these water ecosystems."

It is crucial to conduct further research to understand these impacts better and develop mitigation strategies. This will involve studying the ecological effects of floating solar panels and exploring design innovations that minimize environmental disruptions while maximizing energy production and water conservation benefits.

LESSO Solar's Role in Pioneering Floating Solar Solutions

The LESSO Group is at the forefront of the floating solar revolution, focusing on quality and innovation. Its approach has set new standards in environmental stewardship and sustainable practices in the clean technology sector.

Masdar's significant contributions complement LESSO's advancements. Masdar, in collaboration with PLN, is developing the world's largest floating solar plant in Indonesia. The Cirata floating solar PV plant, Southeast Asia's largest, is set for expansion to up to 500 MW, illustrating the scalability of floating solar technology (Masdar, 2023).

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Masdar's Chief Executive Officer, expressed enthusiasm for the company's ongoing collaboration with PLN. He noted:

Masdar looks forward to expanding its pioneering clean energy work with PLN. We were extremely proud to inaugurate the 145MW (192MWp) floating solar power plant with our valued partners earlier this month.

The scale of the projects between LESSO and Masdar underscores the dynamic growth of floating solar solutions, which is pivotal to the global energy transition and achieving net-zero emissions. These synergistic efforts are vital for driving innovations in solar energy and supporting regional energy transitions.

Future Developments in Floating Solar Panels

The future of floating solar technology will be transformative in renewable energy. Companies like LESSO Solar and Masdar are pioneering advancements in efficiency and scalability, which are crucial for environmental sustainability. Their initiatives, like the expansion of Indonesia's Cirata plant and the development of advanced technologies, exemplify the sector's growth.

The ability of floating solar panels to adapt to different water bodies and integrate with energy grids while minimizing environmental impacts highlights their potential versatility and effectiveness. The focus on creating robust, eco-friendly, and cost-efficient floating solar solutions will intensify in upcoming years.

Collaboration among technology innovators, environmental researchers, and policymakers will be essential in harnessing the full potential of this technology. With ongoing advancements, floating solar systems are poised to significantly contribute to the global shift toward sustainable energy, playing a vital role in the renewable energy landscape.

Continue Reading: Tracking the Sun with Floating Solar Panels

References and Further Reading

Amer, A., et al. (2023). Floating Photovoltaics: Assessing the Potential, Advantages, and Challenges of Harnessing Solar Energy on Water Bodies. Journal of Ecological Engineering, 24(10), 324-339. https://doi.org/10.12911/22998993/170917

Masdar, (2023). Masdar and PLN Advance Plans to Develop World's Largest Floating Solar Plant in Indonesia. [Online] Cision PR Newswire. Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/in/news-releases/masdar-and-pln-advance-plans-to-develop-worlds-largest-floating-solar-plant-in-indonesia-302003893.html (Accessed on 9 December 2023).

LESSO, (2023). LESSO. [Online] LESSO Group. Available at: https://www.lessosolar.com/ (Accessed on 9 December 2023).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Rachael Jones

Written by

Rachael Jones

Rachael Jones, a freelance writer with an MSc in Earth Science and a PGDip in Environmental Management, merges her extensive academic background with years of publishing and editing experience. Focused on digital marketing within the science and technology sectors, Rachael excels in creating compelling narratives that connect intricate scientific ideas with a wider online audience.

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