Floating solar ornate

All About The Floating Solar Panels

India has done an exceptional job in terms of deployment of renewable energy, with most of the capacity coming from onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) based installations. It is well known that solar PV deployment is quite land-intensive and scaling up the project sizes requires a large piece of non-agricultural land, which becomes challenging in many situations. 

To keep the pace of development commensurate with the national targets for solar capacity additions, alternatives need to be explored and established. Floating solar panels are one such alternative, which has started getting attraction worldwide and is expected to grow strongly over the coming years. Presently, China is the leading international market followed by Japan and South Korea. But, due to the availability of large water bodies, India also has very bright prospects for developing Floating solar panel projects.

In this blog, we will discuss the floating solar panels at the following points and also learn how these panels are different from traditional solar panels:

  • What are Floating Solar panels?
  • Why Floating Solar panels
  • Indian Market Overview
  • Future Potential In India
  • Benefits of Floating Solar Panels
  • Challenges in These Panels

What Are Floating Solar Panels:

Floating solar panels, also known as floatovoltaics are solar PV applications that are designed and installed to float on water bodies such as reservoirs, hydroelectric dams, industrial ponds, water treatment ponds, mining ponds, lakes, and lagoons. In this, solar panels are usually mounted upon a pontoon-based floating structure, and to keep its location fixed, the floating structure is anchored and moored. Recently, it has been seen that the demand for these panels has increased not only in India but throughout the world. 

Why Floating Solar Panels:

As of January 2020, The total installed electricity generation capacity of the country was over 366 GW in which renewable energy share was 23.60% (around 84.4GW). But the electricity demand is increasing day by day, with which the power generation is also increasing. At the same time, the climate change problem is also in front of us. Seeing this, it can be presumed that more and more electricity will be generated from solar in the future, and to generate electricity from solar, more and more solar plants will be required. 

We know that solar-required areas and larger power plants need bigger areas, so land acquisition has always been the first and the biggest problem for solar developers. The solar developer also has to see that the piece of land on which they are installing solar should not be agricultural land, because if its an agricultural land then they have to convert it to non-agriculture land. 

All these issues do not occur in floating solar power plants.  

Indian Market Overview:

The floating solar panel’s technology is still in the nascent stages of development in India. In the year 2015, this journey was started with a 10kW FSPV plant sponsored by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy at a pond located in Kolkata, Rajarhat.
After this NTPC installed the country’s largest 100kW floating solar power plant on a reservoir of its combined cycle power plant situated in Kerala’s Kayamkulam district in 2016. Later in December same year, Kerala State Electricity Board started its operation of 500kW plant at Banasura Sagar reservoir in Wayanad district replacing NTPC’s 100kW as the largest FSPV-based plant. The recently commissioned 600 MW solar power project at Madhya Pradesh has now the largest floating solar-based plant commissioned in the country to date. The FSPV sector is now getting a lot of attention in the country, which can be seen via an increase in the numbers of tenders that are released in the past 3 years. At the moment there is more than 1700 MW worth of projects, which are in various stages of development, and more are in pipeline making the outlook very positive for this new segment.

Future Potential In India:

India has a large number of man-made reservoirs, which are used for different purposes like irrigation, hydroelectric, water supply, navigation, etc. In fact, as of June 2019, the share of installed hydroelectric capacity stands at 45 GW out of 366 GW of total installed capacity of the country, representing 12.8% share in the total.
These reservoirs stores large volumes of water during the monsoon for eventual use during the lean season. The prevalent high temperatures and arid conditions, however, result in substantial evaporation losses from these reservoirs. CWC estimates that the average annual evaporation from reservoirs/ water bodies in India varies from 1.5 m to 3.0 m per km2. Thus floating solar panels present a possibility to generate clean energy via a technology that is land neutral and has the potential to conserve water by reducing evaporation losses. 

Now we saw it from a cost point of view, currently, these panel’s price is higher than the traditional solar panels but with the capacity of these panels deployment is scaled up, the tariff may also come down closer to the tariff discovered for ground-mounted solar PV. Even in the future, floating solar power will be cheaper in comparison to the traditional solar plant because the consumer will not have to pay the cost of the land.

Analyzing these points, we can say that there is a lot of potential for floating solar panels in the Indian market.

Benefits of Floating Solar Panels:

Floating solar panels offer enormous potential for an environmentally friendly energy power era whose benefits far outweigh the potential pitfalls:

Higher Gains In Energy Production: 

Correlations between the solar PV array yield, solar PV array temperature, and local weather conditions such as ambient temperature, wind speed, solar irradiance, etc. are well known. These correlations indicate that reduction in ambient temperature and higher wind speed reduces the solar PV array temperature which in turn results in higher energy yield. These correlations indicate that reduction in ambient temperature and higher wind speed reduces the solar PV array temperature which in turn results in higher energy yield. As the ambient temperature at the vicinity of a waterbody is generally lower than the ambient temperature at land and wind speed tends to be higher over open water surfaces as compared to on land, it results in an evaporative cooling effect. This effect results in lower operating temperatures of the PV cell, which in turn improves the energy yield.

Natural Land: 

Since floating solar plants are installed on water, they require no surface, land, or use very limited land than traditional solar PV, which is particularly important for developing countries. Like India, where land is scarce and land acquisition creates a barrier to the deployment of solar PV projects.

Decrease The Water Evaporation:

According to the Central Water Commission, India’s report, the evaporation loss in the country varies from 150-300 cm per km2 per annum. Since FSPV plants are placed on the surface of the water, they provide shade to the water surfaces. Thus reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the water surface and also limiting the interaction of wind on the water surfaces As a result, there is a decrease in the evaporation of water.

Reducing Algae Growth:

With many other factors, the algae’s growth mainly depends upon the light intensity and the water temperature. Since floating solar plants are installed on the surface of the water, they reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the water surface. Which reduces the growth of algae in the water. However, the effect of deploying the floating solar plants on the local water environment is still not well understood and would require further studies to understand the related issues.

Less Soiling Loss & Easy To Clean:

Since wind blowing over water surfaces contains less dirt as compared to wind blow over the ground. The floating solar plants are constrained to less dust as compared to traditional solar PV installations. In the case of floating solar plants extended on inland water bodies, water is readily available for cleaning purposes. However, the quality of the water needs to be checked and should be under the permissible limit as described by PV manufacturers.

Challenges in These Panels Installations: 

As presented in this blog, the floating solar sector is developing at a rapid rate due to its qualities and will soon become an alternative popular method of generating solar energy. Since this technology is still in the growing phase in India, consumers may have to face the following challenges:

  • Unavailability of FSPV-specific standards / technical guidelines 
  • Unavailability of waterbody data
  • The floating solar plant components safety and its long-term reliability
  • Installation Challenges
  • Operation and Maintenance Challenges 

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