Floating Solar Panels Challenges – AE Solar

FPV systems are an emerging and increasingly competitive application of solar PV and are considered the third pillar of solar energy. Floating PV systems depend on a lot of factors like dependent on system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints to determine the technical potential and the deployment of FPV systems. In this article, we will look into challenges that significantly influence market factors and challenges that may impact the installation of FPV Systems.

Floating PV systems

Figure 1 : Floating PV being installed in Walden, Colorado Source: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Technical Challenges

Technical barriers refer to engineering system properties that impede technology adoption and integration. In the case of FPV systems, as the solar panels are mainly sited on water bodies, such as lakes, ponds, or reservoirs the main barrier here is the durability of the solar panels on different water bodies. A lack of consistent FPV installation and equipment standards may lead to poor-quality FPV products, installations, and system performance.

There is also uncertainty on the impacts due to climate change.  With changes in the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, which could impact the host environment of various FPV installations. Additionally, FPV project development costs are very site-specific and may become more expensive if additional transmission infrastructure is needed to transport the energy produced. There is also no specific methodology or approach for quantifying the value and performance of FPV systems. This lack of a consistent approach may impede efforts to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of FPV systems, which may stall private sector interest in this technology option.

Another major technical barrier is the hybridizing FPV System with hydropower plant which includes operation, ownership, and market operation as this all could stall and impede project development.

Economic Challenges

Unfavorable and uncertain economic policies are the key factors affecting FPV deployment. Policies supporting/subsidizing fossil fuel generations have put emerging renewable energy technology (RET) such as FPV at a disadvantage in markets. Renewable Energy such as hydropower, land-based solar PV, and onshore wind are now increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuel power plants in many parts of the world.

Due to the maturity of these technologies, incentives are being phased out this is causing some problems as it is harmful in the development of potential emerging renewable technologies like FPV systems. FPV is a new emerging technology and as a result, the lack of a skilled workforce can impact the installation, operation, and maintenance costs of FPV systems.

A workforce lacking adequate technical, scientific, and manufacturing skills can stall broader technology and development. As FPV deployment grows, the FPV workforce becomes more skilled in installation, leading to efficiencies during installation and reduced labor costs.

Environmental Challenges

Different environmental barriers may impact FPV system deployment depending on the project size, site characteristics such as the ecosystem, and use of the reservoir, along with other potential local environmental concerns.

When planning an FPV system deployment, the entire area of influence of the project must be assessed, which includes the immediate environmental footprint of the system and associated facilities. The potential ecological impacts of FPV systems, especially their effect on the aquatic ecosystem, are not yet fully understood, and there is limited publicly available research on the impacts. According to a study done by Ciel et Terre, an international FPV installer they concluded that there is a combination of factors to be considered to determine the impact of an FPV system on a water body, and impacts cannot be generalized.

Regulatory Challenges

At the policy level, water law and rights can be a barrier in FPV development due to the uncertain ecological impacts of FPV systems on natural versus artificial water bodies. Studies show that most of the existing FPV Systems are sited on artificial water bodies, as manmade reservoirs have likely previously undergone necessary permitting and regulatory processes and have the infrastructure to support FPV installation.

With more research on FPV system designs on installations on freshwater bodies, barriers might arise on the offshore energy development involving FPV systems.  Overall, this uncertainty could increase FPV deployment costs as developers may have to invest significant time and money to gain clarity before formally applying for the rights and permission to site FPV systems on a given water body.  Laws and regulations for the deployment and siting of energy projects often require reviews, approvals, and permits from multiple government entities which may delay the finishing of the project.

Cultural Challenges

Social acceptance plays an important role in RE deployment, and, despite technical and economic feasibility, public opposition to the development of technologies such as FPV could hamper implementation. Previous negative experiences with RE projects may lead to an unfavourable public opinion of FPV systems. This can be easily avoided by developing educational programs to inform the public about the benefits of FPV systems and tracking public acceptance for floating solar to monitor progress.

By best solar module manufacturer AE Solar. 

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