5 Floating Solar Farms Helping Power the World

Floating solar projects are popping up in all corners of the world, from Japan, the UK, Brazil, the U.S. and Australia.

A rendering of the 13.7 megawatt plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan, which will be the largest floating solar plant in the world once construction is complete. Photo credit: Kyocera

There are a number of benefits to floating solar plants, aka "floatovoltaics." Compared to mounted panels, floating systems are naturally cooled by the bodies of water they sit on, therefore boosting power production efficiency. Many floating PV developers point out that the floatovoltaics shade the water, which reduces water evaporation and slow algae blooms.

“The efficiencies are what motivated us to look at this,” Rajesh Nellore, the chief executive of Infratech Industries, told the New York Times.

The Sydney-based company erected a floating solar system in Jamestown, South Australia that claims to generate 57 percent more energy than rooftop panels.

The plant floats on a wastewater facility in Jamestown and is the first part of a larger system that will cover five basins, the company says on its website. The system consists of raft supporting standard photovoltaic panels, which are specially coated to prevent corrosion, due to their close proximity to water.

Another plus of floating arrays is how it makes use of unused space. In the UK, a 6.3 megawatt floating solar project consisting of 23,000 solar panels sits on Walton-on-Thames' Queen Elizabeth II reservoir, an area that isn't used for any other purpose, The Guardian reported. The £6 million (about $8 million) project will help power local water treatment plants that provide clean drinking water to London and south-east England’s 10 million residents.

At roughly the size of eight soccer stadiums, the Thames Water floating solar array will briefly hold the title of world's largest floating solar facility before Japan’s mega-solar farm finishes in 2018, which will have a capacity of 13.7 megawatts. The New York Times noted that if everything goes as planned in the next two years, the 50,904 panels that will float atop the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan will generate an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours annually or enough electricity to power almost 5,000 homes.

The company behind Japan's massive solar plant, Kyocera TCL Solar, started construction in January this year and explained why floatovoltaics are ideal.

"With the decrease in tracts of land suitable for utility-scale solar power plants in Japan due to the rapid implementation of solar power, Kyocera TCL Solar has been developing floating solar power plants since 2014, which utilize Japan’s abundant water surfaces of reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes," the company said in a press release.

Solar is also an increasingly attractive option for regions or countries that are going through drought. With Brazil's historic drought drying up its hydroelectric plants, the South American country is turning to solar power to diversify its energy mix to stave off a potential power crisis.

As EcoWatch reported last year, below-average rainfall in recent years have depleted the country's reservoirs, thus gutting the country's formerly plentiful supply of hydropower, which supplies more than three-quarters of Brazil's electricity, the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

The nation announced last year it would commence pilot tests of a 350 megawatt floating solar farm located atop the Balbina hydroelectric plant in the Amazon.

“We are adding technological innovation, more transmission lines, diversifying our energy generation source, introducing solar energy in a more vigorous manner and combining solar energy with hydroelectric energy,” Mines and Energy Minister Eduardo Braga said last year.

According to PV Magazine, Brazil switched on the first 10 megawatt stage of its floating Ballina plant in March.

Another advantage of floating solar systems is that they can be hidden from public view, which is a factor that led the California nonprofit Sonoma Clean Power to pursue the technology, the New York Times reported.

“Sonoma County boasts some of the most beautiful rolling hills, and people don’t want to see them covered by solar panels,” Rebecca Simonson, a senior power analyst for the renewable energy developer, told the publication.

The Times reported that the company has signed purchasing agreements for floating solar arrays to be built on six treated water ponds in the county. The solar panels, Simonson said, would not be visible from the road.


Faced by Falling Oil Prices and Plunging Profits, Big Oil Invests in Renewables

100% Clean Energy Economy Is Much Closer Than You Think

Portugal Sets Record, Runs on Renewables for 107-Hours Straight

Al Gore’s Groundbreaking Film … 10 Years Later

Show Comments ()
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are developing hybrid electric commercial airplane plane. Airbus

Norway Aims for Electric Planes to Help Slow Climate Change

Norway—home to the world's highest per capita number of all-electric cars—is also planning to go emission-free in the friendly skies.

The Scandinavian country aims to be the first in the world to switch to electric air transport.

Keep reading... Show less
A massive sinkhole in Winkler County, Texas. Google Earth

Large Swath of Texas Oil Patch Rapidly Sinking and Uplifting, Study Finds

West Texas is already home to two giant sinkholes near the town of Wink caused by intensive oil and gas operations. Now, according to an unprecedented study, the "Wink Sinks" might not remain the last in the region.

Geophysicists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas have found rapid rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4,000-square-mile swath around the two sinkholes. This area is known for processing extractions from the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Keep reading... Show less

Study Shows Some Pesticides More Bee-Safe Than Others, But Are Any Pesticides Eco-Friendly?

A study published Thursday in Current Biology is being hailed in a University of Exeter press release as a major "breakthrough" in developing bee-friendly insecticides. But some environmentalists think the research is asking the wrong questions to begin with.

Keep reading... Show less
Parks & Wildlife Service, Western Australia / Twitter

More Than 140 Whales Dead After Mass Stranding in Western Australia

More than 150 short-finned pilot whales stranded en masse at Hamelin Bay on the west coast of Australia early Friday morning.

Most of the whales did not survive after beaching themselves, according to Jeremy Chick, incident controller at Western Australia's Parks & Wildlife Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Tech Giant Microsoft Signs Largest Corporate Solar Agreement in the U.S.

By Katrine Tilgaard Petersen

Microsoft has announced the single largest corporate purchase of solar power ever seen in the U.S., signing an agreement with sPower to add 315 MW of electricity via two solar projects in Virginia.

Microsoft has been powered by 100 percent renewable electricity since 2014. In 2015, the tech giant joined RE100, a global corporate leadership initiative by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, now bringing together 130 ambitious companies committed to sourcing entirely renewable power.

Keep reading... Show less

The New Government Omnibus Spending Bill Shows That Science Advocacy Matters

By Yogin Kothari

After a long wait, late Wednesday night, Congress posted a spending agreement for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year. For the most part, we achieved significant victories, especially given the challenging political environment, in repelling proposals that would have directly undermined the role of science in public health and environmental policymaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Pipeline Leaks 42,000 Gallons Into Indiana Stream

Forty-two thousand gallons of diesel spilled from a Marathon Petroleum Corporation pipeline into Big Creek in Posey Creek, Indiana before the leak was detected Tuesday evening, U.S. News & World Report reported Wednesday.

The pipeline was immediately shut off, and workers contained the spill with two booms before it reached the Wabash River.

Keep reading... Show less

Skylines to Switch Off as Millions Connect to the Planet to Celebrate Earth Hour 2018

On Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time, skylines around the world will go dark as millions celebrate WWF's Earth Hour to spark global awareness and action on nature and the environment.

From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and the Bird's Nest stadium to Burj Khalifa, thousands of landmarks will switch off their lights in solidarity for the planet, urging individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to move forward the conversations and solutions we need to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!