While solar energy is experiencing widespread growth around the world, many regions, especially those with highly concentrated urban areas, have grappled with issues of space. Metropolitan areas in Asia, the UK, and Brazil struggle to find adequate space for solar panels, which typically need to be affixed to a surface such as a rooftop, facade of a building, or the ground.
But thanks to ongoing advancements in technology, a substitute has been found-- floating solar panels. Like terrestrial arrays, these systems use the same widely-available panels, adding floats to the bottom of the metal hardware to keep it afloat and safely from the water's edge.
Ongoing projects are typically placed upon the surfaces of reservoirs, where the water remains calm and the panels will not disrupt large aquatic ecosystems. Floating solar panels have the added bonus of accessing sunshine where there are virtually no obstructions, and industry experts celebrate their ability to curb evaporation and algae growth.
It is forecasted that floating solar panels will find the greatest success in developed western countries thanks to encouraging regulations, and in the Asia Pacific due to high market potential.
Japan floating solar panels market revenue, by product, 2014-2025 (USD million)
Source: Grand View Research
Kyocera, a Japanese electronics giant, has already completed three similar projects, recently announced its intention to build the world's largest floating solar array. Projected for a completion date of early 2018, the project would be located on the Yamakura dam resevoir in the Chiba prefecture, neighboring the Fukushima region and its nuclear disaster. At maturity, the electricity produced would be enough for 5,000 households.
British United Utilities is also undertaking a project atop the Greater Manchester reservoir, and is set to be the largest floating array in Europe. The 12,000 panel array will provide enough energy to satisfy a third of the local water treatment plant's operations.