Floating solar farms: What are they and can they help us reach net zero?

Photovoltaics on the water in China’s Solar Valley can be seen from space. Other notable installations are surfacing around the world.

Floating solar farms are being built in growing numbers around the world.

They’re particularly popular in Asia, according to U.S. space agency NASA, which has photographed one of the world’s biggest floating solar farms from space.

The 320-megawatt Dezhou Dingzhuang Floating Solar Farm in China’s Shandong province was built as part of a drive to decarbonize the city of Dezhou. The city of about 5 million people is known as Solar Valley and is said to get about 98 percent of its power from solar energy.

What is floating solar?

Space on land can be crowded and expensive — and using it to build solar farms can “create tension with farmers, conservationists and other groups,” says NASA.

Floating solar farms are a potential solution. Formally known as floating photovoltaic systems, or floatovoltaics for short, they are solar panels installed on the surface of lakes, reservoirs, industrial ponds or near-coastal areas.

Floating solar is considered a key technology in decarbonizing economies by 2050, says NASA. While a study in the journal Nature calculated that covering 10 percent of the world’s hydropower reservoirs with floating solar panels could produce as much electricity as is produced by all the world’s fossil fuel power plants — 4,000 gigawatts.

Source: Greenbiz.com