Solar Power Inc. (SPI) and Aqua Clean Energy (ACE) last month announced a joint venture to develop new floating solar projects throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
The partnership will bring advanced PV technology to various reservoirs, quarry lakes, irrigation canals and tailing ponds across North America, SPI confirmed in a statement Thursday. The two companies have identified more than 50 MW of potential projects and are considering developments in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. SPI and ACE will co-develop these projects under a joint venture holding company called Aqua Clean Energy Fund, LLC.
The floating solar panels are expected to have a positive environmental impact. By absorbing large amounts of sunlight, the panels can reduce evaporative losses by up to 90 percent in the dry climate of the southwestern U.S. SPI chairman Peng Xiaofeng said, “This technology not only generates clean solar power energy, but also serves to conserve water in critically dry regions like the southwestern U.S. and California in particular, which is now experiencing its fourth consecutive year of drought.”
Some investors and financial analysts, however, remain skeptical of floating solar technology’s marketability. Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Jacqueline Lilinshtein said, “Unless the technology offers significant savings in capital expenditures or increases output, it will likely remain a niche product. Any water savings will be a drop in a bucket, especially in places such as California, which is enduring one of the worst droughts in its recent history.”
After several years of record-low low rain and snowfall, water supplies in California’s reservoirs have fallen by one half. To mitigate statewide water storages, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to unveil emergency legislation within the next week.
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 prevalent in Japan, the UK and Northern California. Plans for Australia’s first floating solar project (to be built in South Australia) were announced just last month.
SPI is a vertically integrated photovoltaic project development company headquartered in Shanghai, China. The company is backed by China’s LDK Co.
© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd