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:

Study: Even short-lived solar panels can be economically viable
A new study shows that, contrary to widespread belief within the solar power industry, new kinds of solar cells and panels don't necessarily have to last for 25 to 30 years in order to be economically viable in today's market.
Researchers develop a better way to harness the power of solar panels
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a way to better harness the volume of energy collected by solar panels.
Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows
A new study finds that if less than 1% of agricultural land was converted to solar panels, it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand.
Solar panels cast shade on agriculture in a good way
Combining solar panel (photovoltaic) infrastructure and agriculture creates a mutually beneficial relationship.
Solar energy becomes biofuel without solar cells
Soon we will be able to replace fossil fuels with a carbon-neutral product created from solar energy, carbon dioxide and water.
More Solar Panels News and Solar Panels Current Events

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

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...