From 10 MW of global installed capacity in 2014, floating PV has increased its share to over 1 GW at the end of September 2018, according to information collated by the authors of the report, Where Sun Meets Water. (Source: World Bank Group, ESMAP and SERIS. 2018. Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report—Executive Summary. Washington, DC: World Bank)
- The World Bank Group and Singapore University’s SERIS have come out with a market report on the potential of floating PV installations titled Where Sun Meets Water
- Floating PV, as per the report, offers several benefits as reducing water evaporation, improving water quality, and reducing the use of land to install solar panels otherwise, as well as improving the panel output due to the cooling effect offered by water below
- If he world decided to use 1% of total surface area to install floating solar PV panels, it could easily reach 404 GW of total capacity. The World Bank report claims using 5% surface area carries potential for 2,022 GW of floating PV and 10% area may lead to 4,044 GW of floating PV being deployed
- Hydro power plants can double their power generation capacity by using just 3% to 4% of their surface area for floating PV panels
- Need of the hour, as per the authors of the report, is to have a dialogue among various stakeholders and also spread the learnings from systems installed to a wider audience
The potential for solar PV installations offered by water bodies across the world is summarized by the World Bank in a report that claims that even under conservative assumptions, floating solar can grow up to 400 GW. At the end of 2014, it was 10 MW, increasing to 1.1 GW by September 2018.
One of the first market reports on floating solar, Where Sun Meets Water was commissioned by the World Bank and researched and prepared by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Floating PV works especially for nations with high population density in certain areas, like India, China and those where land is in short supply as the Southeast Asian countries. Some large hydropower plants can double their capacity by using just 3% to 4% of their surface area for floating PV panels. Pointing out the fact that upfront costs of floating PV are slightly higher, the authors claim the costs over time are at par with traditional solar, because of its higher energy yield.
What also works for this technology is that PV panels reduce evaporation, improve water quality and make water reservoirs serve as an energy source for pumping and irrigation.
Having compiled media releases and industry information, the authors say in 2016, the world installed 67 MW of floating PV, which increased to 453 MW in 2017, and between January and September 2018, annual installations already reached 512 MW.
If the world decided to use 1% of total available surface area to install floating solar PV panels, it could easily reach 404 GW of total capacity. The World Bank report claims using 5% surface area carries potential for 2,022 GW of floating PV and 10% area may lead to 4,044 GW of floating PV being deployed (see table below).
The slow and steady growth is also a challenge since there is lack of robust track record for the efficacy of this technology coupled with uncertainty surrounding costs, about predicting environmental impact and technological complexities involved.
The World Bank Group says need of the hour is to encourage active dialogue among all stakeholders to spread lessons learned from early projects to a wider area. “Through this market report and an upcoming handbook for practitioners, the World Bank Group and SERIS hope to contribute to this goal, and we look forward to working with governments, developers, and the research community to expand the market for floating solar by bringing down costs, supporting grid integration, maximizing ancillary benefits, and minimizing negative environmental or social impacts,” say the authors.
The Where Sun Meets Water report is available on the website of the World Bank.
Post this report, the World Bank plans to come out with a floating solar handbook for practitioners, global mapping of floating solar potential and proposed technical designs and project structuring for hydro-connected solar.