Largest floating solar array in USA planned for New Jersey reservoir

Bold plans are underway in Atlantic City, NJ, to install what is believed to be the largest system of floating solar panels in the US, according to Bruce Ward, who represents the Atlantic City Municipal Utility Authority (ACMUA), unveiled the authority’s plan during a recent committee meeting in Egg Harbor Township.

The floating solar array is expected to be installed near the lower reservoir of Doughty Pond Dam (the southern tip of the Atlantic City Reservoir). The exact size of the installation has yet to be determined, since the ACMUA is still receiving and evaluating bids. The reservoir offers up to 255 acres of available space. Work is anticipated to begin in summer 2015.

The panels are installed on floating pontoons, which can withstand winds up to 85 miles per hour. Compared to traditional rooftop installations, floating solar panels achieve better performance by virtue of resting on a cooler surface.

The concept of floating solar technology has generated significant interest in recent years among farmers, mining companies, and municipal water agencies who are looking to put their otherwise idle water resources to work. To date, this technology has been used extensively in Japan, Britain, and Northern California (USA). The floating solar panels are expected to have a positive environmental impact. By absorbing large amounts of sunlight, the panels will reduce evaporative losses as well as algae and biota growth within the reservoir.

Ward believes this project blends in well with the state’s broader energy initiatives, one of which is the shift 22.5 percent of New Jersey’s electricity needs to renewable sources by 2020. The electricity generated from the reservoir installation will be offered for wholesale purchase through the Atlantic City Electric Company. The developer selected for the project will cover all construction costs in exchange for a power purchase agreement.

Top image: Doughty Pond Dam reservoir, via ACMUA

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