How Solar On Reservoirs Is The Ultimate Mix

Solar on Reservoirs

As solar energy becomes more competitive with fossil fuel based generation, businesses and private homes are finding it lucrative to install solar power systems. Various options such as rooftop solar, large utility scale solar and off grid solar home systems are mushrooming across the globe. Given the scarcity of land in urban areas and for maximum utilization of resources, a new option called floatovoltaics is fast gaining traction.

Solar on reservoirs can not only be used for self-consumption by private or public entities, but is also finding applications in water intensive industries such as water treatment plants, aquaculture, wineries, and dairy farms. Any excess energy generated can be fed back to the grid. These floating solar power plants can also be combined with existing hydropower dams to create hybrid energy generating systems. Using solar on reservoirs has multiple benefits. It is supportive of the overall water ecology – checks on algae growth and reduces water evaporation. Moreover, floating solar panels have also proved to increase the overall efficiency of the system by 8%-10%. The surface of the panels is naturally cleaned by the surrounding water.

Using a combination of solar and hydropower can revolutionize the energy industry. Solar panels can continue producing energy during the day while reducing water loss through evaporation. Hydro power can be used when the sun goes down. Existing infrastructure can be utilized for installing floating solar power on a dam or a reservoir, which lowers installation costs. Also, installing a solar power system on dams or reservoirs will increase its power capacity.

Solar panel systems installation on reservoirs also makes a lot of sense given the large open surface area. Reservoirs could host large floating solar energy farms. One of the biggest examples of solar panel systems on reservoirs is the installation of more than 23,000 solar panels on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Heathrow. The plant is being used to generate power for local water treatment plants. In India too, a 500 kW floating solar plant has been successfully installed at the Banasura Sagar reservoir in Wayanad. In the leading solar state of Gujarat too, solar panels have been installed to cover canals although they are not floating. Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (MAHAGENCO) is planning to install floating solar panels on Irai dam near Chandrapur. The technology is slowly getting mainstream, given its numerous advantages.

Installing solar panels plants on the downstream part of existing dams has many benefits. The energy produced by solar panels can also provide water reservoirs power to sustain energy-intensive processes such as water pumping and treatment in an ecologically friendly manner. Solar on reservoirs can also act as mini grids and support rural electrification schemes by providing power to inhabited areas near the dams. In fact, constructing solar panel plants on water bodies especially hydroelectric dams, also foregoes the necessity of developing storage. The intermittency issue of solar power is solved by the flexibility of hydropower.

It is not possible to procure land for PV deployment in small or densely populated countries. Land shortage could thus prohibit the growth of solar in these areas. Installing PV systems on dams or reservoirs in such countries can help increase decentralized energy production. Different types and size of dams will need different solutions.

Another advantage of installing solar panels on dams and reservoirs is that it leverages on the existing infrastructure to increase the energy production. The transmission lines which are used to move power from existing dams can also be utilized for transportation of the solar power. Building dams are expensive and solar plants on reservoirs can increase economic benefits.

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