Floatovoltaics: The Ultimate Guide to Floating Solar Panels in 2023

The positive thing about the solar community is that it is always evolving. They are ready to address all your problems.

Every challenge the community faces they take it as a challenge to overcome it by bringing innovative ideas to the table.

Compared to the process of harnessing natural energy solar power beats air and water. The reason is you can’t set up a wind turbine in your backyard or set up a water power plant.

So, the best way possible to have your own natural source of energy is by installing solar panels and harnessing solar energy.

But the problem with solar panels is they need space to be placed and the area they are placed can’t be used for any other purpose.

So, to overcome this small problem scientists have come up with a solution that is by using floating solar panels, it may sound crazy but it’s actually a real thing.

What are Floatovoltaics?

In simple words Floatovoltaics are floating PV panels.

Let me explain in detail how it works so you can be more clear about it. 

Floating photovoltaic or floatovoltaics are designed in such a way that they can be placed on water bodies and don’t submerge into them.

With the help of this you won’t have to place solar panels on land, instead you can use the vacant land for other purposes.

The large area of water bodies are lying open with no use. By placing floatovoltaics, you can utilize the area and get benefitted from it. 

what are floatovoltaics

How does it work?

The elements that are used to build land-based solar panels are also used to make floatovoltaics panels because the process of transforming sunlight into electricity is the same in both the cases.

However, to make the array floating and keep it above the waterline a certain floating system is used and to keep it from drifting apart, a mooring and anchoring system is used, , the design of which depends on factors such as wind load, float type, water depth, and variability in the water level (shown in figure).

Benefits of Floatovoltaics

Water-based electricity generation has several advantages over traditional electricity generation, despite its challenges. Here are some advantages of floating solar panel installation:

1. Improved PV Energy Efficiencies

Water beneath the panels has many functions, they can be used for cleaning the panels and they can also work as a coolant.

It may be hard to believe that solar panels lose their efficiency when they are exposed to high temperatures.

This can be avoided by placing them on water bodies so that water can absorb the heat and thus lowering the temperature. In this way,  it can increase the efficiency and output level drastically.

2. Asset in Land Management

Acquiring land for solar projects can be a hectic work. Moreover, to make the acquired land ready to put to use you may have to cut down trees or clear forest.

One of the major advantages of installing floating solar panels is they don’t need vacant land. The preserved land can be further used for agriculture, residential or for any other purpose.

3. Asset in Water Management

You can make the water bodies healthier by installing floatovoltaics panels on them. There are numerous benefits of this. This can counter every possible problem that arises in land based panels. 

Acquiring water bodies is not that hard then acquiring vacant land.

Generally FPV (Floatovoltaics PV) Panels are placed on water reserves and dams. Placing them on artificial water bodies can also be beneficial.

Artificial water bodies don’t face waves of water this is good because you won’t need regular maintenance to keep them in place.

Moreover, evaporation and unnecessary growth of algae can be also avoided. Thus having floatovoltaics panels can be really helpful in water management.

4. Reduction of Algae

Algae is the unnecessary plant that grows under water, to avoid their growth generally expensive water chemical treatment is conducted regularly.

The shade provided by solar panels on water will work as a barrier and stop the sunlight from reaching to the bottom. 

Algae can be problematic, they can clog the pipeline or toxicate the water. Thus having them off the water bodies is necessary. 

5. Reduced Evaporation

In areas where water is very limited, evaporation reduces the quantity of water even more. To reduce evaporation many steps can be taken like covering the water bodies but they won’t be fruitful in any other way.

But if floatovoltaics panels are placed on top of water bodies they will work the same and also add value to it.

More than 33% of evaporation can be reduced just by doing so. So it can be seen as a win-win situation for everyone.

Challenges of Floatovoltaics

Although floatovoltaics is the next level technology, there are certain drawbacks that can’t be ignored.

Here is a list of challenges that FPV Panels face and by knowing them you can take an unbiased decision on whether to make investment in such great technology or not.

1. Long term Reliability

All because of the latest advancement in the technology used in making solar panels, they are designed in such a way that they can be stable on water, in storms and even on snow.

But the problem with rough water is that, due to wear and tear floating panels get affected badly and need to be fixed regularly.

So if you are thinking of placing floating panels on rough water instead of calm water then there will always be a question of long term reliability of the panels.

2. Electrical Safety

When dealing with electricity, water is a major problem because any negligence can lead to a disastrous situation.

So, building and operating floating panels will require special electrical equipment and proper management is necessary for monitoring the safety of the equipment.

Special safety equipment is generally costly so anyone with minimal requirement of solar power won’t be needing floatovoltaics technology.  

3. Expensive and Complex Maintenance

This floating panel technology is pretty new so it is still not fully adopted everywhere. Because of the low demand of this technology the cost of installation is still very high.

The cost of installation increased depending on the nature of water and the environmental condition around it.

The problem is not with the cost of installation but with the cost of maintenance. Installation cost if a one time investment so it can be dealt with.

But after installation the regular maintenance can’t be done by just anyone. Maintenance can only be done by experienced professionals because of the complexities included underwater.

So if you are thinking of installation do consider the cost of maintenance before installation.

4. Waves and Winds

Even though it is true that floating panels can be installed on water bodies, not all water bodies are suitable for it.

This is the reason why solar panels are not installed on ocean or rough water bodies that experience huge waves and tides.

And because of waves the panels will move rapidly and this will lead to damages to the panels which in turn will need more maintenance.

Any small natural water bodies like a lake if preferable or any man made pons is also suitable for the same.

5. Biodiversity Impacts

The floating panels don’t allow sunlight to pass through them, this disrupts the natural habitat underwater.

This affects the wildlife living under water. Because of growth of less vegetation the oxygen level will fall and won’t be suitable for fish to live.

Moreover the panels and anchors connected to them may hurt the animals, therefore installing panels on such water bodies that have a lot of wildlife under them should be avoided.

Floatovoltaics Vs Other PV Installations

By looking deep into the disadvantages of floatovoltaics this may seem that they all can be avoided by further experimenting on this technology and in due time with experience of this technology it will all be avoided.

So comparing now with other PV Installations can be base less but it must be accepted that the challenge of acquiring land and damaging the forestation can be avoided using this technology.

Floating and land-based photovoltaic systems: A comparison of site identification aspects

Source: www.seris.nus.edu.sg

Floating PVLand Based PV
Land/water surface use• Does not compete for land with agricultural, industrial, or residential projects • Often easier to find sites near densely populated areas • Potential integration with aquaculture• Suitable/affordable land may be far away from load centers, thus requiring costly transmission infrastructure • Requires change in land use, which can be time consuming • Competes for land with city dwellings, industrial development, and agriculture though in certain cases integration is possible
Power system benefits• Synergy with existing electrical infrastructure (e.g. hydropower plants) • Possible hybrid operation with hydropower• Costs of grid interconnection are often borne by project developer and can be prohibitively high

What does the future of Floatovoltaics look like?

Floatovoltaics is still an emerging technology and it’s still under development. The advantages of this technology are promising and because of its worldwide installation it is predicted that the future of this technology has a lot of untapped potential that is still to be explored.

Countries like the US, Japan, India are gladly accepting this technology because less land is available for larger solar projects.

The idea of installing them on water bodies has received a positive response from everyone.

As the demand for land acquisition is increasing with growing population land is becoming scarcity so it will definitely be an attractive solution to all land problems.

Is it a better alternative?

Floating solar panels or floatovoltaics panels have a lot of advantages compared to the disadvantages; this will lead to usage of more renewable energy in the future.

Although it is still in the developing stage, its price and availability is not at par. In the near future with increasing demand we can see a reduction in the price and then it will be affordable for everyone.

Hence, if you are thinking of investing in this technology don’t think much about it, the future looks promising and you won’t regret your decision.

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