Will Floating Solar Panels Sink or Swim with Other Energy Producing Methods?

Employing solar panels over bodies of water – dubbed “floatovoltaics” – may be the key to resolving environmental concerns with fossil fuels and space-hogging renewables.

 There is no question that solar energy is beneficial to homeowners and businesses alike: the cost of installation has decreased 67% in the last 8 years and corporations using solar energy have offset some 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 each year.

According to the National Solar Jobs Census, the solar energy sector provides 260,000 American jobs, with California alone employing 100,050. This job market has increased 25% since last year and 1 in 50 new jobs in the US is created by the solar industry.

Finding the space necessary to install efficient, large scale solar installations is unfortunately a bit of a challenge. Arrays that are both large and near enough to consumers are often an eyesore and may take the place of other products like crops or encroach upon historical landmarks.

The answer to these issues may be the use of floating solar panels, dubbed “floatovoltaics” which may be strategically placed in areas of unused salt water, wastewater, or upon water reservoirs. These arrays use the surrounding water to help maintain their temperature (thereby increasing their efficiency by 8-10%), prevent the growth of harmful algae in the water they cover, and are less likely to negatively impact wildlife.

Although the features of this technology are undoubtedly advantageous, it may surprise you to learn that Far Niente winery in California was the first company to actually utilize to use this method of energy collection domestically in 2007. On the other side of the country, New Jersey implemented a floatovoltaics system atop their waste water treatment plan which is able to generate 135,000 kilowatt hours of power annually. Not to be outdone, Japan has turned to Kyocera Corp. to construct the largest installation near Tokyo which is able to supply electricity to over 4,970 homes.

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