Land-based solar arrays require large amounts of space and frequent cleaning, which can pose challenges to adoption. As countries in Europe and Asia move to swiftly scale up solar power to meet both environmental treaties and our growing energy demand, floating solar technology has quickly gained popularity as an alternative to ground-and rooftop-mounted solar arrays. By reducing the complexity involved in permitting and environmental compliance, eliminating costly and invasive rooftop installations, and preserving land acreage for other valuable uses, floating solar offers a variety of marginal cost savings relative to ground-mounted solar, while avoiding common barriers associated with more traditional solar power systems. These advantages make it easy to get into power generation that’s already often cheaper than the status quo. Let’s look at how floating solar can help reduce your energy costs.
What Is Floating Solar?
Floating solar, also known as floating photovoltaics (FPV) or “floatovoltaics,” is any type of solar array that floats on a body of water, like a reservoir. Floating solar panels are mounted to buoyant structures that sit them above the surface of the water. This minimizes the need to dedicate land acreage to solar generation, and also helps reduce evaporation from those bodies of water. However, while solar itself already offers energy cost savings, floating solar is more than just “solar on water.” Let’s dig into the surprising ways that floating solar can help reduce your energy costs.
Solar power tends to be cheaper, which is what’s driving its rapid growth both in the United States and globally. Several free online tools can help you arrive at a ballpark estimate of what you stand to save by going solar—most notably, the EnergySage Solar Calculator, NREL’s PVWatts Calculator, and Google’s Project Sunroof. Because these tools aggregate information from several databases, ranging from the irradiance in your area to your local incentives, they aren’t perfectly accurate—but if I know I could be wasting thousands of dollars paying my local utility for power, even if it’s a rough estimate, that’s usually enough to schedule a site assessment with a solar developer to get a more accurate projection. The cheaper rate can be significant, especially if you live in a particularly expensive utility territory (we’re looking at you, West Oregon Electric Co-Op), but floating solar in particular offers even more opportunities for cost savings.
Increased Panel Efficiency
Heat makes solar panels less efficient. Thus, floating solar panels over water can boost PV panel efficiency by up to 16%, depending on weather and atmospheric conditions where the array is located. More efficient panels means more bang for your buck—meaning you can build a smaller system to suit your facility’s needs, or sell more power back to the grid under net metering, or sell more Renewable Energy Credits at year’s end.
Increased Resource Efficiency
Floating solar panels over surface water will also reduce evaporation, which could spell additional energy cost savings depending what the water is used for. For farmers, it means you don’t have to pump as much groundwater, nor run your irrigation pumps as long. Floating solar arrays also complement hydroelectric dams nicely.
Unless you live in a utility territory that’s actively blocking local power generation, chances are you’ll already save money by adopting solar power. Floating solar adds additional savings to what’s already likely a substantial cut to your power bill. Ready to start your solar project? If your organization has non-recreational surface water on site and you want to find out how much you’ll save with a floating solar system, visit our website or give us a call today at (800) 445-2565.