Floating Solar Farms – Part 2

Floating Solar Farms – Part 2

When finished, the FERC, ACEN and Sun Asia floating solar farm projects will be among the biggest in the world. The largest solar farm in the world as of 20222 is the Dezhou Dingzhuang Floating Solar Farm in Dezhou, China with a capacity of 320 MW. The largest in Southeast Asia is the 192-megawatt peak (MWp) plant by Indonesia’s state-owned utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) and Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar. It is located in the Indonesian province of West Java. It is said to be the third-largest floating solar farm in the world.

A big project is ongoing in India, the Omkareshwar Floating Solar Power Park Omkareshwar Dam in Khandwa. It is a 600MW floating solar power plant that is being built in two phases. The first phase involves installation of 278 MW, which has now been activated.

On track to be the biggest in the world when completed is the Saemangeum Floating Solar Power Project in North Jeolla, South Korea with a capacity of 2,100 MW. It will be developed in multiple phases. According to the Global Energy Monitor, the first phase of the project is currently at pre-construction stage and is planned to enter into commercial operation in 2026.

These huge floating solar projects are being pursued not just because of the problems on land availability. They have other advantages over their land-based counterparts. Floating solar panels can generate more power due to the cooling effects of water which helps to maintain lower operational temperatures for the solar panels and mitigates overheating. This thermoregulatory advantage can potentially boost the efficiency of solar panels by up to 15%.

Another benefit is that water bodies possess inherent reflective properties that contribute to the albedo effect (the ability of a surface to reflect sunlight), which in turn amplifies the efficiency of floating solar panels. The reflection of sunlight off the water's surface back onto the solar panels increases the amount of photons that can be converted into electricity. This interaction augments the overall energy yield.

Like in any large-scale project, floating solar panels also have environmental impacts. While floating solar panels help reduce evaporation and thus save water, blocking a large amount of sunlight over a water body can interfere with various levels of food chain and biogeochemical cycles (water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle) of the aquatic ecosystem. With less sunlight available, photosynthetic activities inside the water decreases. Low rate of photosynthesis leads to loss of Phytoplankton, a food for marine species.

According to a recent study by researchers in the U.K. and U.S.A, floating solar panels might also interfere with interaction between the water body and the atmosphere, causing the occurrence of deep-water anoxia (absence of oxygen), resulting in the release of phosphorus from bed sediments.

Lastly, floating solar panels contain toxic materials. Rainwater may cause these chemicals to leach into the body of water and thus harm marine organisms.

In the Philippines, these environmental impacts would most probably be addressed in the process of securing Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Environmental Management Bureau.


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