The World Bank is encouraging construction of floating solar projects on water citing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
A floating solar plant comprises an array of solar panels installed on a buoyant structure that floats on a body of water, typically a dam reservoir or a lake. Floating solar is still a nascent concept.
“The power generated from the floating solar plant can be transmitted to the grid using an existing hydropower substation, saving the cost of separate interconnection,” the World Bank says in a new report.
“Its benefits include reduction of evaporation in the reservoirs, which could be important in large reservoirs in hot and dry climates. World Bank’s ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program) has been investigating opportunities for installation of floating solar equipment,” it adds.
About 1.5 hectares of reservoir area are typically needed to set up a 1 MW floating solar plant, for instance. Even then, factors such as the type of floats used and the distance from the shore for electrical design aspects may alter the estimates.
“Solar land development on the vicinity of the hydropower facility (hydro-connected solar) can also be considered as another option to benefit from available land, and existing substations, lines, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and human resources,” says the Bretton Woods institution.
Close proximity of solar and hydropower stations is also beneficial in the sense that hydropower can act as spinning reserve for balancing out fluctuations in weather-dependent solar power, acting as national grid stabiliser.
Spinning power stations can easily be switched on and off, ramped up and down in real-time to match fluctuations in intermittent power generation like solar and wind, avoiding large-scale system interruptions.