What on Earth is Floatovoltaics!?

Apr 27, 2023

What is “floatovoltaics”?

With land accounting for less than one third of the Earth’s surface, it is unsurprising that a common argument against solar energy generation is that it takes up too much space. But what if we could harness some of the other 71 per cent of earth’s surface and mount solar photovoltaic systems on water?

Good news – we can! Floating Photovoltaics (FPV), sometimes known as “Floatovoltaics”, is the practice of generating energy from solar photovoltaic panels floating on bodies of water.

When properly designed, installed, and maintained, FPV systems have a symbiotic relationship with the water they float on. The water keeps the FPVs cool, which helps them generate at a high capacity, and the FPVs help reduce water evaporation and algae.

A clean energy solution for an increasingly crowded planet

With over eight billion people on Earth (and counting!), many parts of the planet are becoming increasingly crowded. More people mean an increased demand for energy, but less space to generate it. As a result, highly populated and land-scarce regions are turning to creative energy solutions, including FPV.

Densely populated Singapore boasts a 60 megawatt FPV system. And floating solar can be seen in satellite images of Shandon Province in the world’s most populated country, China.

The business case

FPV can also make good business sense. Farmland isn’t cheap, and many farmers are working to increase their income through renewable energy for agrivoltaics, energy cost savings and even branding.

Farmers often also have access to a body of water suitable for irrigation and floatovoltaics, which offers all of the benefits of solar farming, plus it can preserve water used for irrigation. In fact, in 2008, a California winery built an FPV system on an irrigation pond.

In China, there is even a 550 MW FPV system floating above a fish farm – talk about e-fish-ency!

Potential for hybridization with hydro 

FPV can even be installed on hydroelectric dams. One study found that each year, there is the potential to produce up to 10,616 terawatt hours globally by doing so.

In Ontario, we have 66 hydroelectric power stations with 241 dams. Hybridizing those stations could make renewable energy in the province more flexible and reliable – wind power when it’s windy, solar power when it’s sunny, and hydro power for anything in between, for instance.

Other jurisdictions have already begun hybridizing hydro plants to include FPV. Thailand has done it, and has more in the works, Albania is working on one, and Ghana’s plant is the first in West Africa. That’s just to name a few.

In Conclusion

At SolarShare, we’ve always known the power of the sun. It’s exciting to see new innovations in solar technology across the planet, and we look forward to seeing more at home.