Floating Solar PV is possible on inland waterbodies (i.e. lakes, ponds, reservoirs), inshore and nearshore waters (i.e. inlets, estuaries, bays), and open ocean waters. Each location could have varying technical requirements including mooring and connection details, environmental and metocean load criteria, floating support structure details, and access details.
Installed pilot projects to test the capabilities and cost effectiveness of the technology have proven that floating PV is commercially viable. But taking into account the number of large-scale projects that have been implemented, there are still some unknowns and challenges to its deployment that remain. With the lack of significant amount of a track record, these uncertainties include potential environmental impact, operational costs and complexity in long term floating location.
Floating Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations reached 3 GW globally at the end of 2020 , while conventional, ground-mounted PV installations are produced around 600 GW. The Floating PV industry is still developing, and some small countries and island nations are looking at large-scale floating Solar PV deployment in order to avoid using their scarce land resources for solar power generation.
Floating Solar PV Site
In some ways, Floating PV development is quite similar to conventional, ground-mounted PV project. The location site is very important. If it is located offshore, metocean data is needed, i.e., wave and wind loads, bathymetry, extreme storms, and soil conditions, which are important for mooring systems. Besides weather and solar irradiation, two factors define solar panels efficiency – tilt angle and temperature.
Simulation of performance differences between offshore and land‐based photovoltaic systems shows that the relative annual average output energy is about 12.96% higher at sea compared with land. However, in some months, this relative output energy increases up to 18% higher energy yield at sea.
A schematic representation of a typical large-scale floating PV system with its key components identified is represented below.