FPV Plants Could Be the Solution to Africa's Hydropower Woes-Part.2

FPV Plants Could Be the Solution to Africa's Hydropower Woes-Part.2

The Second Reason: Floating photovoltaics are becoming increasingly popular around the world.

The deployment of floating photovoltaic panels is becoming increasingly common around the world. Some experts predict it will soon become the "third largest" solar deployment mode after the rooftop distribution and ground-based deployment. There are now an estimated 350 floating solar systems in more than 35 countries, but most of the systems are small, according to Frank Haugwitz of Apricum, a German clean-technology consultancy. By the end of last year, the total installed capacity of these floating solar systems was just 2.6 gigawatts.

Japan had researched the model more than a decade ago, but China has since taken the lead. The world's largest floating solar project, with a total capacity of 150 megawatts, is located on the site of a submerged former coal mine in Anhui province. Interest in technology is growing elsewhere in Asia.

The largest floating solar project currently under construction is located in Saemangeum, South Korea. The $4 billion project, with a total capacity of 2.1 gigawatts, will be operational by 2025. The floating solar photovoltaic project in Kerala, India, is located in the Banasura Sagar reservoir. The state of Maharashtra is also talking about deploying a 600MW floating PV project at the Koyna Power reservoir, one of India's largest hydropower projects.

Singapore is reportedly exploring the idea of installing floating solar panels offshore to power data centres. Technicians are considering installing floating solar panels between offshore wind turbines to take advantage of their grid connections. Asian countries or regions like Chinese Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam also have such plans.

European countries are also showing increasing interest. The German renewable energy company BayWa completed a 27-megawatt project on a flooded sand pit in the Netherlands last year. A study carried out for the company last year by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems recommended deploying floating photovoltaic panels from flooded open-pit lignite mines. There are 500 such pits scattered across 470 square kilometres of rural eastern Germany. The institute estimates that the potential deployment of the pits could theoretically reach 56GW, or 2.74GW of installed capacity at even a 5% coverage rate. It is equivalent to two large fossil fuel power stations.

The Third Reason: Floating photovoltaics could slove Africa's difficultties

On the surface, the cost of deploying solar panels on water is typically about 10 to 20 percent higher than that on the ground. However, floating PV panels have their advantages: 1. They don't take up land. 2. They pollute less dust 3. They do not require leveling land. They don't need cut down trees or demolish buildings. The water temperature is cooler than land, so energy productivity is usually higher.

There are other benefits about deploying floating photovoltaic panels in dams and reservoirs. Grid-connected transmission lines are available, and the two can complement each other by using solar power during the day and saving water to generate electricity at night.

However, the biggest added benefit, especially in the tropics, is that solar panels covering the water reduce evaporation. It increases the hydroelectric potential of reservoirs. Reservoirs in much of the tropics lose as much as two meters of water evaporation in every year. It is  equivalent to a third of their capacity.

The Kariba Dam reservoir in southern Africa lost a quarter of its water as a result. Ghana's Akosombo Dam reservoir has lost more than half water. While no viable way has been found to reduce the huge loss of water storage, solar panels may be the solution.

There have been no environmental impact studies or other detailed analyses of the potential impact of floating photovoltaic panels on wildlife or the wider environment. Sanchez believes fisheries could be potentially harmed by reduced underwater light or changes in water temperature. These changes also reduce global growth, which could be beneficial for freshwater ecosystems plagued by algal blooms. In Africa, some floating panels could be attacked by crocodiles or hippos. Similarly, such infrastructure could block the access to water for these and other animals.

A World Bank report three years ago said that with land increasingly limiting solar development, floating photovoltaic panels "open up new frontiers for global solar power generation, especially in countries where land is limited." The World Bank is currently considering financing hybrid hydroelectric and solar power plants in Pakistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Mali and Ivory Coast, Mr. Haugwitz said.

Land restrictions on solar deployment are also spawning other solutions. BrandiMcK-uin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, says California could replace the diesel generators that power irrigation pumps by turning its 6,000-kilometer-long network of irrigation canals, the world's largest water-delivery system into "solar canals".

The rapid flow of water in the irrigation canal prevents the solar panels from floating on the water surface, so they need to be mounted on metal supports or suspension cables above the canal. However, their protection from sunlight remains largely intact. A study by Dr. McKuhn, published in March in the journal Nature Sustainability, suggests that suspended solar panels can reduce evaporation from irrigation canals and potentially weed growth.

It is clear that floating solar panels or suspended solar panels, it seems that solar panels are to be about to work in a way that has never happened before.