- Significant potential for large-scale offshore floating solar PV exists in calm seas with not very strong winds and low waves, as per an ANU study
- Such calm tropical maritime regions can generate about 1 million TWh/year of solar energy
- Regions around the Indonesian archipelago and the Gulf of Guinea off the Nigerian coast hold the most potential
Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) explore offshore floating solar PV potential in their latest work claiming calm seas around the Indonesian archipelago and the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Nigeria are the most suitable sites for such systems to be located.
Calm tropical maritime regions, which rarely experience waves larger than 6 m or winds stronger than 15 m/s, are capable of generating about 1 million TWh/year of solar energy from floating solar systems, according to the researchers.
Their results follow an analysis of 40 years (1980 to 2020) of maximum wind speed and wave height data across 5 main regions near the equator globally. Such locations also reduce the cost of building engineering structures required to protect the panels.
Projected to become the world’s 3rd most populous nation in 2050, Nigeria alone can generate 7,500 TWh solar energy per annum from 6 TW of floating PV covering 30,000 km² of its territorial seas.
Southeast Asia too offers significant scope with 800,000 km² of seascape with calm seas, as seen over the last 40 years, offering potential to generate some 210,000 TWh of electricity from offshore solar PV every year. It would be enough to fulfill all energy requirements of 10 billion affluent people, equal to the projected global population in 2050.
The world’s only large tropical archipelago, Indonesia, can generate about 35,000 TWh of solar energy/year with offshore PV, write the researchers Professor Andrew Blakers and David Firnando Silalahi.
Such regions have poor wind resources, but high solar irradiance which they can harvest offshore, thereby resolving land-use conflict.
The research reads, “The combined offshore floating solar PV annual generation potential for regions that do not experience waves larger than 4 m or winds stronger than 15 m/s is 220,000 TWh. This is sufficient for all the energy needs of an affluent global population of 11 billion people. If maximum wave heights of 6 m can be tolerated, then the annual energy generation potential rises to about 1 million TWh as an upper bound.”
At the end of 2021, the world had installed around 3.8 GW of floating solar PV capacity, which is estimated to grow to about 30 GW by 2030. While most research so far has been focused on freshwater floating PV installations, the authors believe there is a need to have a comprehensive global atlas of this technology’s potential, which could make way for effective energy policy and planning.
The research titled Global Atlas of Marine Floating Solar PV Potential has been published on the MDPI website.