Floating Solar Farms: Why They Are Important [According to Recent Studies]

Have you heard about floating solar farms? Such structures have grown in popularity in recent years, with some experts predicting that they will eventually completely replace traditional solar panels. 

why floating solar farms are important
Photo: Gemlan Tech

Floating solar farms produce more electricity than conventional panels while also assisting in the prevention of climate change.

Some countries’ governments have already announced several megaprojects for construction. Will they be able to solve the global energy crisis, and how are they organized overall? Let’s figure it out together.

The potential of solar energy in the world is estimated at 80 petawatts, which is three times more than all the needs of humankind today. However, humanity will need to cover the entire Earth’s surface with solar panels to use it fully. And this means that we need to donate fertile land and meadows for grazing, not to mention the complete disappearance of territories with wild animals.

An additional problem is global warming. With the advent of regular measurements of the temperature of the lakes in 1985, scientists found that the indicator has been growing every ten years by 1.2 degrees. Such a rapid change in the heat of water leads to the growth of algae, a decrease in oxygen at depth, and the subsequent death of aquatic animals.

Solar floating power plants have become the solution to these problems. These structures are almost ordinary solar panels known to all people on the planet. However, they are located only on lakes and reservoirs. Any strong vibration of waves can lead to their breakage hence the reason that designers are not ready to install them in the seas and oceans. 

How do floating solar works compared to regular solar farms?

However, the efficiency of such plants is much higher than their terrestrial counterparts. Recent studies have shown that this technology generates more electricity on average by 12.5%. This dramatic increase in the efficiency factor is due to the cooling effect of the water under the floating farm.

Many companies have already been able to assess their effectiveness. Recently there have been more and more floating solar farm projects in different countries. And this trend is good news.

Singapore is a prime example of constructing a powerful floating solar farm. The island state has very little territory, so the state is permitted to build a floating farm on the Tengeh reservoir. More than 122,000 Floating panels cover an area of 45 hectares or 45 football fields.

They float on peculiar polyethylene pillows, which provide protection against corrosion and local living creatures. The panels are located with large gaps to not block the lake from sunlight and air completely. Drones control serviceability. This will reduce staff work by 30% in the event of a malfunction, a team of maintenance specialists sails to a specific area on ships and repair equipment.

The total capacity of this facility is only 60-megawatt power and was put into operation in the summer of 2021. As noted by Wong Kim Yin, the Group President and CEO of Sembcorp industries, “The Sembcorp Tengeh floating solar farm is a crown jewel in our portfolio, and a showcase for Singapore as the leading homegrown renewable energy player Sembcorp has over 3300 megawatts of renewable energy assets around the world. We are committed and have the track record and competencies to support the Singapore green plan.”

A more powerful version of the floating solar farm is located in Anhui Province, China. The Three Gorges New Energy Company, a local company, found the lake, which appeared due to the flooding of the mind. The stagnant water has become a perfect site for a 150-megawatt power floating farm. An additional difference from the Singapore station is that fisheries were organized with the help of a solar farm. The Chinese often tried to get all kinds of benefits from each facility. The total cost of the construction was $151 million.

By the way, it is in this province that another floating solar farm with a capacity of 40-megawatt power is located. However, the most powerful floating solar farm is located in another Chinese province Xinjiang.

Considering its competitors’ experience, the Chinese company has relied on two types of business at once: power generation and aquaculture development. The project was divided into two phases. The first phase involves the installation of solar panels with a total capacity of 200-megawatt power. The work was completed in 2017, and the company has already begun to receive the first profit from the project.

The second phase involved the construction of solar panels with a total capacity of 120-megawatt power, which began almost immediately on was completed only in April 2020. All panels and inverters machines for converting their AC DC into AC alternating current have been equipped with additional protection against moisture and dirt.

The new plant produces low-cost electricity at the cost of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, less than a traditional solar panel. Tammy Tang reports that a fish breeding area is organized under the marketing manager’s panels in the farm equipment manager. The 320-megawatt plant is expected to generate 352 million kilowatt-hours per year. The plant owner earns approximately $45 million per year from the generated electricity.

While the annual fishery income can exceed $5 million, the structure also solves environmental issues. The panels prevent moisture evaporation and lower the water’s heating temperature, preserving aquatic life.

With such impressive accomplishments, many countries are actively promoting the construction of such megaprojects. Smaller floating solar projects have already been installed in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. In India, however, they are eager to bypass the Chinese and construct a farm with 600 megawatts of power that is twice as powerful.

The project is estimated to cost $410 million, and it is currently in the planning stages. South Korea decided to take things a step further. The government has announced the construction of a 2.1-gigatonne floating solar farm. A megaproject of this magnitude is estimated to cost $3.9 billion. The building process has already begun. The first stage, with a capacity of 0.5 gigawatts of power, began in July 2020.

Megaprojects in India and South Korea are expected to be completed by 2023. Scientists will most likely have discovered safe ways to place floating farms in the seas and oceans by this time. What are your thoughts on this? Are India and Korea capable of surpassing China in the future?