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Floating solar: averting the search for land and rooftops

The ambitious plan to deploy 100 GW of Solar Power by 2022 requires about 500,000 acres of land. While taking this quantum leap in solar capacity, one of the major challenges is of finding adequate non-arable land resources and without disturbing the ecological balance at any location. Against this backdrop, floating solar which involves setting up solar panels on static and sweet water bodies, has enormous potential. It is estimated that utilizing just 5% of the water bodies of India, the country can generate 130 GW of Solar Power

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In 2014 India’s first pilot Floating Solar Power Plant of 10 kWp capacity was set up at New Town, West Bengal. The performance of the plant has been found to be excellent.

 

Floating solar projects comprise an array of PV Panels supported on light structural frames which are mounted on a floating platform with access walkways for maintenance.  The principal components of the power plant are:

a. 40 nos. PV Panels @ 250 Watt per Unit to generate 10,000 Watts.

b. Structures to support PV Panels.

c. Walkways and their supporting structures.

d. Inverter

e. A Floating Platform to carry all the above.

f. Anchoring arrangement for keeping the Platform in place.


Floating solar offers several advantages, some of them are as follows:

  •   Surrounding temperature is low in summer ensuring higher generation of power from PV modules.
  •  Precious land is not required and the additional cost of floating solar (nearly four times on-land solar PV) is offset if avoided land cost is factored in
  •   No cement, concrete or elaborate construction required; DC power output is converted to AC using an inverter kept on the floating structure and the AC power can be fed to the local grid using underwater cables
  •  Dust accumulation is much less when the modules are installed on water bodies.
  • Conservation of water due to less evaporation.
  •  Algae formation in the water body will be less due to continuous maintenance of the Solar Floating System.

 

 

Some precautions needed in the installation of floating solar are as follows:

·                     Stability of the platform is important. It must be anchored from all four sides and the distribution of loads needs to be fairly uniform. Proper anchoring is also required to ensure the panels do not move with rain and / or high-speed winds as any change in the direction or orientation of the PV panels will affect power output.

·                     In grid connected inverter, frequency control is necessary, If the grid frequency exceeds the tolerance band, the project goes into islanding mode for protection, but this results in energy losses.

·                     Possible negative impact on aquatic life (flora and fauna) needs to be monitored.