Environment Science and Technology

New plans for water floating solar panels

A major player in renewable energy production has unveiled plans for new floating solar panels.

Phelan Energy Group, which manages the largest solar farm in South Africa seeks to produce 5 million units by 2025.

The company under the “FloatSun project” is targeting countries with scarce open land and abundant sunshine.

The company, whose solar panels in South Africa account for almost 70% of its total installed capacity; turned its attention to floating solar power farms, presenting the concept during a conference in Amsterdam in September.

“The world population is forecast to grow to 10 billion people by 2050, which will stress resources to feed the planet. With over 70% of the world surface covered by water, we need to use waterbodies to deploy solar, and save our land for food production,” said Pearse Phelan, FloatSun project leader.

Floating solar projects are a relatively new concept. 

They have advantages over land-based solar installations, including easier installation and decommissioning, not occupying land, and generating more electricity due cooling effect of the water beneath the panels.

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The floating solar panels are based on a proprietary thermoplastic polymer frame. It maintains the solar panel just centimeters above the water surface to maximize cooling and increase efficiency. 

The main float weighs about 15kg, measuring 1.9 metres by 1.2 metres. The walkway float adjoining the panels weighs 7kg.

The floats are produced through blow moulding, a common process for manufacturing hollow polymer structures. 

It’s designed with a “cooling cavity and air vortex to maximize the water-cooling effect on the solar cells and increase power yields”.

“In addition, a unique, solar-powered, automatic ThermoKlean system constantly cleans the graphene-coated, high transmission glass and lowers panel temperature,” said Phelan.

The FloatSun will work well with dams that are already generating hydroelectricity owing to the existing transmission infrastructure. The company said.

“Phelan Energy Group will deploy its new technology, exclusively, in partnership with renewable energy developers and other solar stakeholders, with a focus on areas of land scarcity and high sunshine,” the company added.

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