Researchers discovered that floating PV plants (FPV) can substantially contribute to the achievement of 2030 EU targets. It also can potentially prevent solar energy conflicts with agriculture and other potential risks.

Methods and results

Scientists from Italy and Spain used various parameters and models together with satellite data about each suitable water basin. They also estimated costs, yields, cell temperature and capacities of various floating and land PV (LPV) systems. Researchers simulated energy yields of modules by using PVWatts DC power model with data on irradiance from CAMS Radiation Service. Simulations used Trina Solar of 21.4% efficiency, inverters of 96% efficiency, and DC to AC losses of 14%. The modules were south-oriented. The PV system’s lifetime was set at 25 years.

It was discovered that FPV installations are cost-effective in certain Southern European countries. The study shows that in the Mediterranean countries, where the average amounts of sunlight are high, FPV plants can achieve up to 2% greater energy yields than land-based installations. However, some configurations don’t allow FPVs to achieve lower temperatures than LPV systems and, eventually, lead to lower energy yields. Yet, if the FPV installation costs can be reduced by less than 12%, floating PV systems can be cost-competitive to the land-based ones even in cases of underperformance. The cost-effectiveness can even be greater when FPV is combined with hydropower because in this configuration floating plants can use existing infrastructures.

The study also revealed that each additional degree of tilt angle of FPV systems is worth between 2.5 and 7.5 euros per kW. FPV systems can also produce the yield between 640 and 1688 kWh with capacity factors of 7.3 to 7.9 percent.

The future of FPV

Floating solar plants have long been treated as a go-to solution in future solar developments. Indeed, there are many advantages associated with such systems. Here are a few main ones:

  • No need for site preparations and ground grading. You don’t need to install foundations and can build photovoltaic plants in areas with more complex ground conditions.
  • Lower rent fees are potentially lower for on-water sites.
  • There is no competition with agricultural land.
  • FPV can also reduce evaporation rates and save water for other necessary operations (e.g. hydropower).
  • FPV also benefits from the cooling effect from water and produces higher yields.

However, all these benefits still depend on the location and legislature of an area and are not universal.