In many countries there is not enough room for installing the more and more popular large-scale solar systems. Small- and medium-sized systems of solar panels are mounted on roofs of residential and industrial buildings. However, to make the solar power hold a major share of the energy mix, its necessary to build power plants of tens or hundreds of megawatts.
Such installations, though, need lots of space and taking farming fields, for instance, could turn out to be controversial or even spark social protests. The search for alternative but ecological solutions has led to water.
It is possible to use a number of various water-related areas. Floodlands, polders, irrigation or dam reservoirs – possibilities to install floating solar plants are virtually endless! For instance, in the Indian state of Karnataka there are 36 thousand reservoirs used for irrigation when there is no electricity.
Since 2011 French company Ciel & Terre has been developing large-scale floating solar solutions. The Hydrelio PV system allows standard PV panels to be installed on big water reservoirs like lakes or artificial bodies of water. This is a simple and affordable alternative for ground-mounted systems.
In this solution the main float made of plastic allows a standard PV module to be installed at the optimal angle. Secondary floats are used for joining the main floats together in larger structures and provide access to the panels.
According to Ciel & Terre, the system is scalable, easy to install and disassemble and requires no tools or heavy equipment. It is also environmentally friendly, fully recyclable, has low environmental impact and, most importantly, is cost-effective. The system was first tested in February 2011 in the south of France. Today, the floats of this French company carry solar power plants of over 80 MW in over 20 countries.