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Water Solar Panels – Can Floating Solar Energy Farms using CPV Succeed – Technology,Companies (Solaris,SPG,Sunengy), Advantages and Costs

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Solar Panels have grown exponentially in the last few years driven by declining costs and growing energy prices.The advent of the low cost manufacturers of silicon solar panels from China,falling raw material polysilicon costs,subsidies from governments fighting climate change have all contributed to the more than 150% increase in world solar demand in 2010.Solar Panels are not only being used on solar roofs and giant rooftop ground plants,but also are being integrated in buildings known as BIPV applications.Solar Panels are also available in flexible forms which can be used in backpacks and other innovative ways.Now there is another niche for solar panels that is growing.Note most of these companies are using the Concentrated Photovoltaic Technology (CPV).The traditional CPV suffers from heating problems as high concentration of sun power leads to high temperature.Building the CPV systems on water will help them solve their problems according to these companies.

Floating Solar System Companies

Water Solar Panels are Solar Panels that float on water instead of being fixed on land.A number of companies are pioneering this concept of selling solar panels which can float on water bodies saving space on land.The companies that are involved in promoting water solar panels are

a) SPG Solar – The company claims to have installed the world’s first floating solar system in 2007.It markets the floating solar panels system under the Floatovoltaics® brand.

b) Solaris Synergy – Solaris Synergy was founded in 2008 and  awarded an R&D grant from Israel’s National Infrastructures Ministry.It has a partnership with the French giant EDF.Solaris Synergy’s flagship product is a floating concentrating photovoltaic (F-CPV) system.Solaris Synergy’s medium-concentration F-CPV system is based onpatented evaporation cooling technology that keeps silicon PV elements at a low and stable temperature (~86ºF / 30ºC) .The company is building a solar water farm  at Cadarache, in the South East of France at the site of a hydro power plant reservoir .The test project is known as AQUASUN.

c) Sunengy – This is an Australian startup and is partnering with India’s largest private utility Tata Power to build a floating solar power farm.Sunengy holds the patent for a unique, revolutionary, floating-on-water, Liquid Solar Array (LSA) solar technology

Disadvantages of Solar Panels on Water

1) Increased Transmission costs as underwater cable has to be built to transmit the power to land

2) More Maintenance costs than usual

3) Specialized installation will lead to higher system costs and increased LCOE

Advantages of Floating Solar Systems

The advantages of solar panels on water are

1) They require less cooling and are more efficient

2) They save expensive real estate as they are built on industrial water bodies like wastewater treatment plants,cooling facilities in factories and power plants etc.

3) The help in keeping the water safe from algae growth,evaporation by covering the surface of the water body

4) Helps in lowering the temperature of the water

5) CPV Systems can be easily be cooled.The structures according to Synergy will be lower cost as they can withstand high winds.Being built on hydro reservoirs,they can use existing grid systems as well.


Water Solar Panels are an interesting concept however their costs are currently much higher than normal solar panels on land.The benefits of floating solar panels do not overcome the disadvantages of higher initial systems costs and transmission cost of power.However the niche is an interesting one and the startups have done well to pick a less crowded sector.Like Envision Solar which made solar carports a big growth story in solar panels,these companies can look to make floating solar panels a big growth area as well.


Abhishek Shah

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