World’s largest floating solar PV system planned for India

India’s National Hydro Power Corporation is planning to construct the world’s largest floating solar installation, with a peak capacity of 50MW.

A large lake in the South-Indian state of Kerala has been chosen as the site for the project. A smaller 12kW pilot project, which will lead to the completion of the 50MW project, is scheduled for commissioning by the end of October this year.

Kolkata-based Renewable Energy College has been granted the contract to manage the technical aspects of the project, with the total cost estimated to be around $70 million.

The solar panels will be placed on top of floating platforms which will be anchored firmly to prevent drifting and swaying. The ideal sites for floating solar farms are large bodies of water with relatively calm conditions, such as lakes or large dams.

However, some issues will need to be ironed out during the pilot stages of the project, such as ways of securing the floating platforms in strong winds. Installations in water bodies that are drinking water reservoirs will require stringent controls in order to prevent leaching of toxic or harmful substances into the water.

For solar PV installations which may be considered for offshore deployment, the effect of rough conditions and large waves will also have to be considered in the design.

Floating solar farms provide the potential for very large savings on land prices and can perform better than similar installations on dry land. The amount of shading from surrounding obstacles will likely reduce and heating of the panels caused by the ground will be eliminated.

Supporters of the project state that that the ecology of the surrounding water body is not likely to be adversely affected. It is also proposed that it will in fact reduce evaporation, helping preserve water levels through periods of hot weather.

The idea is far from new. A 1.2MW floating system has been installed and commissioned by French company Ciel et Terre in Saitama prefecture, Japan, with plans to install 20MW in total for the project. A previous announcement has also revealed plans for a 1.5MW floating PV system in Singapore.

Floating solar PV installation Ciel et Terre

A floating solar installation, commissioned by Ciel et Terre. Image Credit: Ciel et Terre

The needs for these countries are obvious; they are all densely populated with land prices coming at a premium. India is the second most-populous nation in the world with just over 1.2 billion people. Singapore has over 5 million residents packed into 60% of the area of New York City. And in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, local governments in Japan have aggressively pursued renewable energy alternatives, spurring innovative offshore solar and wind farm developments which, in the case of floating solar farms, can be designed to be earthquake-resistant. Floating solar farms have addressed key needs for the deployment of solar in their respective countries.

Floating PV systems provide another outlet for deployment in Australia and, with property prices on the rise, may become financially favourable for some systems in populous cities around the country.

Top Image Credit: The Economic Times

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John Rodriguez