Is there really any interest in installing photovoltaic panels on water?

At first glance, placing solar panels on water may seem a bit strange. In reality, floating photovoltaic farms have several advantages, including saving land that could be used differently.

A space saver

On July 14, 2021, the Reuters news agency reported on the inauguration of a new giant solar installation in Singapore. Founded by the company Sembcorp, this floating photovoltaic farm whose size is impressive – 45 football fields – will have a very specific mission: to provide all the energy needed for all water treatment plants in the city-state of 5.7 million inhabitants. Singapore is expected to install in the near future four other plants of the same type.

It must be said that this technology is interesting for several reasons. The most obvious is that by installing the panels on the water, they do not take up space on land. However, solar is usually very greedy in terms of land. Indeed, if it is possible to install panels on the roofs of homes, the performance is much better when it comes to larger surfaces. Various projects by gigantic terrestrial solar parks have already emerged in recent years, for example in Australia and China.

In the case of countries whose territory is quite limited, install solar panels can become a real problem. Singapore has therefore opted for a floating installation and wants to continue in this direction. In Europe, a few countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, are also interested in this type of solar park.

floating solar park
Credits: Capture YouTube / The Straits Time

Better performance

While countries with land restrictions – and access to the sea or a large lake – can also benefit from the low carbon impact and increasingly competitive costs of solar energy, countries with large territories may also be interested in installing floating solar farms. . The aim would then indeed be to: do not monopolize surfaces that could otherwise be used. For example, this may concern agricultural land or even nature areas to be strengthened and protected.

Another reason can be very attractive: their yield. In January 2021, Singaporean and Dutch researchers published a study claiming that floating solar parks better performance than their terrestrial counterparts. You should know that when the panels heat up, their performance decreases. However, the proximity to water ensures better cooling of the installation and thus the maintenance of the performance level.

Nevertheless, the design of the panels and their future location should absolutely not be taken lightly. Indeed, this type of installation can, in the event of a bad calibration, major impact on fauna and flora aquatic. But a UK study published in May 2021 confirms that if agricultural projects are well thought out, they can actually have a positive impact on the environment. The researchers say they conducted early simulations showing that the change in water temperature caused by these facilities may be able to compensate caused by global warming.