Put your hands on a floating PV system

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The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has announced the publication of the Floating Solar Handbook for Practitioners, a practical guide for developers of inland and near-shore floating PV projects.

The book, produced with the support of the National University of Singapore and the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, is intended to help developers of large scale and commercial floating projects from the planning to the operations and maintenance stage. The publication includes advice on site identification, feasibility studies, finance, environmental and social issues, procurement and construction and commissioning.

The development process for floating PV in particular differs markedly from that for ground-mounted and rooftop systems, say the guide’s authors.

Unique conditions

Site identification, for example, involves consideration of bathymetry, subsurface soil conditions, water levels and wind speed, among other variables. “It is unlikely that a site possesses all the desirable features,” the authors said.

As for feasibility studies, the writers recommend an energy yield analysis which takes into account better module cooling; major soiling risks, including above-average bird droppings; and faster degradation of electrical components.

For planning purposes, the quality of floating structures and mooring and anchoring systems is said to be crucial, as well as proper cable routing and management. “The water environment imposes more stringent requirements with regard to electrical safety,” the authors wrote.

In terms of finance, floating projects are said to be more complex than ground-mounted installations, as the former require more contractors. “Given the lack of experience that banks, insurers and regulatory bodies have with FPV [floating PV], permitting and financial closing are likely to take longer than for ground-mounted PV projects,” the guide notes.

More hurdles

Floating projects also have to overcome more obstacles during permitting, especially in countries with little experience in renewables – and floating PV in particular.

Developers planning sea-borne floating power plants should try to avoid the littoral zone next to the shore to avoid damaging environmental impacts. “The development of the constituent technologies and knowledge of positive and negative impacts will be greatly enhanced if early installations are diligently monitored, which will entail some public expenditure,” the publication states.

SERIS published a report in June indicating the world had around 1.3 GW of installed floating PV capacity at the end of 2018. A best-case scenario considered by the authors envisaged potential generation capacity of 4.044 GW if 10% of the world’s available sites hosted floating solar.