Can Solar Panel Buoys Avoid Use Of Agri-Land For Power Generation
Land is expensive
With growing food shortages around the globe, and depleting farm lands due to rapid urbanization, land is becoming a scarce and precious commodity because it is essential for agriculture. With a growing population and increasing per capita demand for food, arable land is a highly scarce resource. Over the past several years, land has increasingly been utilized for installation of large scale solar farms and utility scale solar is more prevalent than rooftop solar in India. It is estimated that solar projects in India alone which is traditionally an agricultural economy would require a total area of almost 400,000 acres, to fulfil its 2022 target of 100 GW of solar installations. This could have a big impact on agriculture since the land that is generally found near substations is arable land. It is difficult to build large solar power plants in remote places as they do not have any transmission infrastructure.
As solar energy for power generation is becoming cheaper, developers are eyeing larger chunks of land for construction of solar power plants. This can lead to an increase in prices of land especially those having good power connectivity. In the Central Valley in California, a key agricultural region is also a prime location for solar energy development, owing to high solar radiation.
How lakes and waste water bodies can turn into productive deployments
Scarcity and high cost of land has led to energy conscious countries looking towards water bodies for increasing their solar capacity. It is important to identify lakes, reservoirs or waste water bodies that could support solar development. Solar Panel buoys avoid the use of expensive agricultural land for power generation and comes as a boon for countries which have densely populated cities which want to conserve their limited agricultural land
Waste water bodies and industrial water bodies like wastewater treatment plants can be utilized for the construction of solar buoys. In addition to large savings in the form of real estate cost, there are other benefits like improved efficiency and higher energy production. Water naturally cools down the temperature of the solar panels which in turn improves panel efficiency.
Benefits of Solar Panel buoys
There are numerous examples of floating power plants that are running successfully worldwide. Some projects have even reported a 10%+ increase in output levels. India recently inaugurated the country’s largest floating solar power plant with 500 kW capacity that is expected to generate 7.5 lakh units of power annually, which will be fed to the KSEB grid using underwater cables.
Japan, after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, had turned its focus to renewable energy sources to meet its power needs. However, given the scarcity of land in the country, Japan had has focused on generating power from Solar Panel buoys on reservoirs of dams. UK, Brazil, USA, China and other large countries are all using these solar panel buoys to avoid using expensive agri-land for power generation.
Floating solar panel technology is a win-win case for most developing countries where both demand for power and cost of land is high. In fact, many developers end up paying more for land cost than what they have initially budgeted. Solar system on water bodies is also finding new applications for effluent treatment centres and aquaculture farming.
Governments should encourage New & Effective Product designs
As prices of renewable energy generation keeps on falling every year, it is imperative for countries to deploy a proper mix to tap its maximum potential. Countries should aim at installing solar panels more on waste land, water bodies and rooftops. While the Indian government has enacted a number of measures to make rooftop solar lucrative the rooftop segment has failed to gain the desired momentum. Hence, utility scale solar farms are more commonly seen in India. The government should incentivize installation of solar panel buoys so that developers start exploring options other than building large solar plants on fertile agricultural land.
The onus is on the developers too, who need to design solutions that are not only easy and convenient to install but are also effective economically and environmentally. Our product design is such that it allows for stacking/ nesting of the separate components. This leads to a sharp reduction in the cost of transporting the product to the site. Assembly of the product on site is simple, fast and easy and requires no custom tools. The product can also be customized for required buoyancy requirements based on the expected load conditions. The product design allows for high coverage of water body leading to low/decreased evaporation while allowing some sunlight as desired.
All said and done, if you install two identical systems, one on land and one on the water, the latter is going to actually perform better. Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir will free up land for agricultural or other uses. Moreover, the floating plant could generate up to 20% more energy than an average ground mounted system.