Floating solar PV gains global momentum

Sep 22, 2020 12:15 PM ET
  • This post checks out the present state of floating solar PV (FPV), briefly highlighting numerous leading markets, and also reviewing advantages and also benefits in detail along with common applications and also service version considerations. The expectation for FPV is positive and also is set to damage without its particular niche understanding. It might well become the third column of the solar PV market in future.
Floating solar PV gains global momentum
Image: Hanwha Q Cells

Along with ground-mounted and roof PV, floating solar PV (FPV) is often hailed as the future 3rd column of the international solar PV market. At present, amongst the 60+ countries proactively going after the release of FPV (see Map 1 listed below), greater than 35 countries are house to an approximated 350 functional FPV systems, which up till the end of August 2020 had a cumulative capability of around 2.6 GW. Although still considered a niche, FPV is projected to experience an average growth price of over 20% in the coming 5 years.

In this context, Asia is anticipated to make up about 2 thirds of the international need, mostly driven by China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand as well as Vietnam.

Map 1: Countries with current FPV setups

China: To day, China is the world's largest market for FPV. Presently, FPV systems are either deployed as a result of a bidding process system, therefore qualified for a FIT given over 20 years or as a so-called grid-parity project, i.e., with no type of subsidy support. To highlight the on-going need for FPV, in June this year, China's Datang Power launched a tender looking for numerous bids for a total capability of 820 MW of FPV to be mounted throughout China by December 2021.

India: India's residential solar PV market, considered to be one of the most affordable on the planet, observed a 45% decrease in bid costs for FPV tenders from 2016-- 2018. For instance, the lowest proposal priced estimate by developers for a 70 MW FPV system previously this year was as low as INR 35/W (EUR cents 4/W). The are a number of reasons for such a rather reduced quote, e.g., improvement of making procedures, reduction of material prices, decrease in thickness of floaters as well as aggressive bidding by programmers in order to gain FPV associated experience. The latter could be the major reason, considered that between 2018 and completion of 2019, the government of India released a collection of tenders for FPV systems amounting to around 2 GW. Presently, around 1.7 GW remain in numerous phases of advancement.

South Korea: Located on South Korea's southwest shore, the tidal flats of Saemangeum have been identified as the site for the world's largest FPV setup of 2.1 GW by 2025, requiring a financial investment of roughly US$ 4 billion. South Korea's third largest empire, SK Group, has been chosen as a preferred bidder to construct 200 MW as part of Phase 1 with 1.2 GW, arranged to begin in the last half of 2020. These nearshore/maritime and also coastal or overseas floating PV undertakings are in addition to South Korea's approximated onshore FPV market potential of around 9.7 GW, which depending upon the body of water (tanks, freshwater lakes, dams, watering & drainpipe channels), would certainly see between 2-- 20% of the water surface area covered by FPV.

Taiwan: The Taiwanese government has supplied FITs specifically for FPV systems because 2017. Accordingly, FPV systems coming online in the 2nd half of 2020 are qualified to obtain a FIT of NTD 4.2709-- 4.7067/ kWh (EUR cents 12-- 14/kWh) for 20 years. Local developer Chenya Energy, owned by Marubeni, is constructing what will certainly be the globe's biggest FPV with an ability of 180 MW set up to be grid-connected by the end of 2020 (and as stated above, the title of the "globe's largest FPV" will certainly after that go to the planned South Korean installation of 2.1 GW in 2025).

Thailand: A national FPV target is favoured for instance, by the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT), which announced in March 2019 that it intends to develop a total of 16 FPV systems on dams with an incorporated capability of 2.7 GW by 2037. Specific abilities of the imagined FPV systems range from 24 MW up to 325 MW. In June 2019, EGAT launched a tender for a 58.5 MW FPV project, which will be financed by its very own fund to the tune of around EUR 51M. According to the World Bank, the CAPEX of this 58.5 MW FPV project totals up to USD 0.48/ Wp (EUR cents 0.41/ Wp). In November 2019, the Bangkok-based BCPG company appointed a 200 kW FPV on an exclusive Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) basis signed with the neighborhood Bangchak Biofuel Company.

Vietnam: In order to de-risk financial investments in FPV, the Asian Development Bank together with the Canadian Climate Fund, supplied a $37 million concessional lending in fall last year for a 47.5 MW FPV to be constructed in southern Vietnam. The project is prepared to be improved a man-made tank co-located with an existing 175 MW hydro-power plant. In April, the government of Vietnam announced its plan to hold 2 auctions, one focusing on a 50-- 100 MW ability planned for 2020 and also the second for a 300 MW FPV project in 2021. On May 22, the federal government revealed a FIT for FPVs. As necessary, a tariff of VND 1,783/ kWh, comparable to EUR cents 0,65/ kWh will be applied from the industrial operation date onwards for 20 years.

Early starts and also motivations

Floating PV systems are not new, given that the very first system (for R&D) was already mounted in Aichi, Japan in 2007. The list below year, the first FPV-related license was formally signed up and the world's first commercial installment, a 175 kWp system developed at the Far Niente Winery in Napa Valley, California, came to be functional. The proprietor's key inspiration to release a FPV system was to avoid occupying land and to minimize water evaporation.

Geographical factors to consider are naturally a crucial motorist for FPV. Countries subject to high population density, low portion of level surface, completing usage for available land, etc., yet at the same time, home to a substantial number of offered water bodies, both often in proximity to tons facilities as well as existing grid facilities, were among the very first to take into consideration FPV systems as a means to further scale-up solar energy generation capabilities. Land shortage is an ever before pushing problem, as shown by South Korea, where 70% of the land is hilly. Throughout the early years, appointed FPV systems were of a smaller scale and also largely designed for research and development objectives. Today, located in the Province of Anhui, China, the globe's biggest mounted FPV system currently has a capacity of 150 MW as well as has functioned given that November 2017.

Benefits as well as advantages of floating solar PV

Floating solar PV systems have specific advantages and benefits when compared with traditional ground-mounted solar PV systems. Below in Table 1 is a non-exhaustive list:

Advantage / Benefit Evidence / Verification
Higher land use efficiency Yes, approx. 1.33 MW / hectare vs. approx. 1.6 MW / hectare on land


(note: site-specific)

Increased energy yield Yes, due to the cooling effect of water & wind, in a low(er) single-digit range (note: site-specific)
Higher yield with bifacial modules No, due to the low albedo of water, but glass-glass modules will offer a longer durability
Lower module degradation



Initial data suggests that the lower operating temperature leads to a slower degradation, however more research is considered necessary
Reduced water evaporation Potentially yes, but it depends on technology, water body coverage and characteristics, applied calculation methodology, etc.
Improved water quality In theory yes, but it requires more long-term environmental impact studies
Reduced algae growth Yes, in theory, but needs more long-term environmental impact monitoring
Less prone to dust pollution Yes, but possibly more prone to other forms of soiling, such as bird droppings
Hydro-FPV-Hybrid has a lower CAPEX Yes, due to the existing grid infrastructure, but subject to specific site characteristics
Ease of installation Yes, e.g., 30 MW can be installed in only 8 weeks, due to high degree of modularity, no land levelling/elimination of surroundings causing shading needed, etc. (note: site-specific)
Simple(r) decommissioning Yes, in theory, but lacks sufficient verified data

To date, the global record of functional FPV is limited. As a result, a number of the above stated efficiency benefits have yet to be verified by bigger setups, preferably over longer amount of time and across varies locations. Nonetheless, very first monitoring searchings for suggest that in many cases such advantages may exceed the boosted capital expense.

What are the expenses of FPV systems?

Generally, expenses sustained for creating a FPV system, not just differ from project to project, yet are as well extremely site-specific. Factors affecting the cost framework consist of water level variation, depth, top quality and also salinity. The bathymetry of the water body establishes the design format of the anchoring as well as mooring system. Depending upon the locally dominating wind regimen, the FPV plant layout needs the capacity to endure stronger wind loads.

Also the overall logistics, other elements to think about consist of range to the coast, website ease of access, regional infrastructure, as well as vicinity to the grid. Additionally, water-based electric facilities not only triggers greater O&M costs, yet also as an example, set up cabling might call for a higher dampness resistance. Moreover, due to the absence of empirical information, projects often tend to require a more extensive technological due persistance.

Generally water bodies undergo boosted analysis procedures enforced by pertinent governmental authorities, thus developers may be needed to regularly perform extensive ecological influence analyses (EIA), which could be an added cost vehicle driver. As a whole, the CAPEX of FPV systems are presently around 5-- 15% higher contrasted to a ground-mounted PV system, but in some European countries, a 20+ MW system is currently considered affordable. Below in Figure 1 is an overview of proposed bids for different tendered FPV projects.

State of FPV associated knowledge and also general threat assumption

Despite the fact that FPV systems have actually been released for greater than a years, as well as while the huge majority of today's 2.6 GW was just built during the last 5 to 6 years, the present state of expertise relating to FPV systems differs considerably. Certain areas, such as PV components, cabling, materials & components are well comprehended. On the other hand, understanding is still lacking in areas such as O&M procedures, lasting environmental impact, as well laws and also allowing. Other areas, nevertheless, are better recognized, such as floats, mooring and anchoring, electrical layout, lasting energy return projecting and security problems, thanks to considerable experience obtained specifically in the maritime market (see Figure 2 for a review of some of the present gamers energetic in the FPV sector).

Versus this history, it is not surprising that FPV systems are viewed as reasonably high danger. However, work is currently being done, for example, by the International Electrotechnical Commission via its Technical Committee 82 for Solar PV Systems to specify a relevant requirement. Likewise, a number of national research study entities and also sector initiatives are proactively taken part in developing recommended finest method as well as guidelines concerning floats, sites, permitting, energy yield estimations, anchoring and also mooring, and technological demands, to name a few, for both onshore and also nearshore/maritime overseas FPV.

Furthermore, in recent months a number of multi-year lengthy research study projects have actually been introduced, involving many firms standing for nearly a lots nations. Below in Table 2 is an introduction concerning FPV systems associated research study & growth currently being undertaken.

Subject Research activities
Durability of materials Fatigue, wear and tear, corrosion, bio-fouling, ensuring environmental friendliness
System durability Determine reliability / degradation rates in a harsher environment
Performance / energy yield Comparison with land-based PV systems, assessing the cooling effect, lower operating temperatures may slow down module degradation process, minimize mismatch loss, etc.
Optimize floats/modules CFD based designs, anti-bird-dropping coatings, east-west orientation vs. south-facing, etc.
Water bathymetry Optimized solutions for anchoring / mooring technologies for both land-based and nearshore / maritime water bodies
Anchoring & mooring Solutions securing the mooring system, anchors that keep the FPV in position
Water quality impact Reduced growth of both algae, giardia and cryptosporidium bacteria
Biodiversity interaction Impact of aquatic flora & fauna, understanding heat transfer between panels and water surface
Hydro-FPV hybrid-system Developing a methodology to assess the technical potential / operational benefits
Off-shore FPV Understanding the hydrodynamic interaction btw. elastic bodies and flexibility of systems

Present as well as arising company models

The early set of business FPV systems were installed onshore, as stand-alone on ponds, in storage tanks and pit mine lakes, etc. The preliminary company design, FPV 1.0, was to generate power, typically fed into the neighboring grid.

Today, FPV 2.0, entailing the co-location of a FPV system with an existing hydropower plant is getting grip, particularly, if integrated with larger hydropower sites that can be flexibly run. The advantages of such hybrid systems are manifold, e.g., the FPV system boosts the overall power yield of the property, it may promote the monitoring of seasonal durations of reduced( emergency room) water accessibility, thus making up a reduced power outcome of the hydropower plant. Additionally, the reduced amount of vaporized water could be utilized for irrigation objectives, as opposed to being lost. Furthermore, a FPV system can support daytime optimal lots, enabling more hydropower to be scheduled for a raised tons throughout night times. One of the most substantial benefit, however, is that such a FPV system would certainly use the existing power transmission framework of the hydropower plant, as a result decreasing the total CAPEX of the FPV system.

Presently, the World Bank is proactively associated with discovering prospective sites and carrying out mapping as well as technological usefulness tasks in countries like Myanmar, Pakistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Mali and the Ivory Coast for such hydropower-FPV crossbreed nuclear power plant. In addition, the Global Solar Atlas has actually identified 1889 such possible international sites in February this year.

A report, jointly released by the World Bank Group, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme as well as the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore in autumn 2018, specifies that the most conventional quote of the international FPV capacity based upon available synthetic water surfaces exceeds 400 GWp, which corresponds roughly to 65% of the global cumulative set up solar PV ability in 2019.

Recently, developers started discovering new potential company designs, let us call it "FPV 3.0". Here, the power generated by a floating PV system is to be eaten onsite, in order to sustain the so-called "blue economic climate". This is divided right into "power at sea", i.e. offshore marine aquaculture, sea water mining, sea observation, underwater vehicle charging or algae ranch procedures and also "seaside communities", where FPV created power would be made use of for e.g., for water desalination or resiliency and calamity recoveries. In Thailand, various designers are assessing project propositions to combine nearshore/coastal maritime fish/shrimp ranches with FPV systems. Typically, such overseas "blue economic climate" procedures are primarily powered by diesel generators. The potential of replacing such diesel gensets with FPV systems is approximated to be in the several GW range each year.

In the context of food supply, one consequence of the continued international urbanization is the shrinking area per capita readily available for farming functions. In order to compensate a prospective future food supply restriction, nearshore/coastal maritime agri-farming powered by floating PV systems could be one more organization design we will certainly see emerging in a few years.

Today, greater than 40% of the international population lives within 100 km of the coastline. Taking into account a significantly linked as well as digitalized world, cloud servers near where people live assist in the short travel distance of data, hence, immersed data centres, currently a truth off the shore of Scotland because June 2018, powered by FPV systems could be the standard in future. As an instance, Singapore, a country facing land restrictions, however whose data centres take in about 12% of the nation's electric power today, will need to include more data centres to meet future demand, is therefore proactively checking into FPV powered data centres. The global information centre market has been estimated to expand to a value of $58 billion by 2025.


Today, a number of companies are pressing the limits of FPV, i.e., to run overseas FPV systems in areas with water depths of less than 100 m. One favoured concept is to combine existing and future offshore wind parks with FPV. The basic idea is to cover the open space in between the individual offshore wind turbines with FPV, therefore boosting the land use performance as well as adding to the total power outcome, while using the very same grid infrastructure. The Italian business Saipem with its Norwegian subsidiary Moss Maritime in cooperation with Equinor is presently creating a potential project, nevertheless, it might take an additional a couple of years until proof of idea has actually been developed.

In the meantime, FPV 2.0 as discussed over is anticipated to experience the greatest development in the near to midterm. A larger share of the international project pipe does favour the co-location of a FPV system with an existing hydropower plant, as a result of the apparent advantages.

When worldwide finest practice, guidelines as well as even criteria will certainly be readily available, accreditation, examination, acceptance treatments developed and guarantees and also performance warranties supplied, and the ecological sustainability of FPV systems made certain to name a few problems, floating PV has the prospective to come to be the third pillar of the worldwide solar PV market.

By Frank Haugwitz, elderly consultant at Apricum-- The Cleantech Advisory

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