Nav: Home

NREL details great potential for floating PV systems

January 08, 2019

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers estimate that installing floating solar photovoltaics on the more than 24,000 man-made U.S. reservoirs could generate about 10 percent of the nation's annual electricity production. Their findings, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, reveal for the first time the potential for floating PV to produce electricity in the United States.

While the United States was the first to demonstrate floating PV panels--with the first installation occurring 10 years ago on pontoons on an irrigation pond in Napa Valley, California--the idea has not received widespread national acceptance. The U.S. focus has primarily been on installing large-scale, ground-mounted solar panels, and only had seven floating PV sites as of December 2017. Floating PV sites are being deployed more overseas, however, with more than 100 sites as of the end of last year. Japan, for example, is home to 56 of the 70 largest floating PV installations.

Photo shows solar panels floating on a body of water.

"In the United States, it's been a niche application; where in other places, it's really been a necessity," said Jordan Macknick, the lead energy-water-land analyst for NREL and principal investigator of the project that produced the paper "Floating PV: Assessing the Technical Potential of Photovoltaic Systems on Man-Made Water Bodies in the Continental U.S." "We're expecting it to take off in the United States, especially in areas that are land-constrained and where there's a major conflict between solar encroaching on farmland."

Macknick and his NREL co-authors, Robert Spencer, Alexandra Aznar, Adam Warren, and Matthew Reese, estimate about 2.1 million hectares of land could be saved if solar panels were installed on bodies of water instead of on the ground. The use of floating PV comes with additional benefits, including reduced water evaporation and algae growth. Spencer, lead author of the paper, added that in some cases benefits could be greater than those documented in the paper, but that the team used "strict assumptions that would give us a very conservative estimate of the total potential generation and benefits." The NREL team also found that operating floating PV alongside hydroelectric facilities yields increased energy output and cost savings because of existing transmission infrastructure.

"Floating solar is a new industry enabled by the rapid drop in the price of solar PV modules," said Warren, director of NREL's Integrated Applications Center. "The cost of acquiring and developing land is becoming a larger part of the cost of a solar project. In some places, like islands, the price of land is quite high, and we are seeing a rapid adoption of floating solar."
-end-
Funding for the analysis came from NREL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, an internal source of research dollars.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary National Laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Related Solar Panels Articles:

NASA's solar dynamics observatory captured trio of solar flares April 2-3
The sun emitted a trio of mid-level solar flares on April 2-3, 2017.
Chemists create molecular 'leaf' that collects and stores solar power without solar panels
An international research team centered at Indiana University have engineered a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide -- a carbon-neutral fuel source -- more efficiently than any other method of 'carbon reduction.' The discovery, reported today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, is a new milestone in the quest to recycle carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere into carbon-neutral fuels and others materials.
Lotus stir-fry scores high in consumer panels
A report details potential demand and consumer preference for fresh lotus rhizomes and products such as lotus salad, baked lotus chips, and lotus stir-fry.
A new way to image solar cells in 3-D
Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a way to use optical microscopy to map thin-film solar cells in 3-D as they absorb photons.
Web panels build customer loyalty
Customers who are asked to participate in retailer-sponsored Web panels feel valued by being invited to take part and tend to express their gratitude by buying more and across more different product categories.
This 'nanocavity' may improve ultrathin solar panels, video cameras and more
Recently, engineers placed a single layer of MoS2 molecules on top of a photonic structure called an optical nanocavity made of aluminum oxide and aluminum.
Under Pressure: New technique could make large, flexible solar panels more feasible
A new, high-pressure technique may allow the production of huge sheets of thin-film silicon semiconductors at low temperatures in simple reactors at a fraction of the size and cost of current technology.
Swept up in the solar wind
The sun's outer layer, the corona, constantly streams out charged particles called the solar wind.
Bringing low-cost solar panels to the market
In just one hour, the Earth receives more than enough energy from the sun to meet the world population's electricity needs in an entire year.
Shining more light on solar panels
A better understanding of how light reflects off different surfaces has improved action movies, videogames and now solar panels.

Related Solar Panels Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".