New report estimates the global potential of floating solar to be 400 GW

The World Bank Group and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS)  released the “Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report” with funding provided by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and the Government of Denmark, which is the first in a series of reports on floating solar.

According to the report the capacity for floating solar is growing exponentially. At the end of 2014, total global installed capacity stood at 10 megawatts (MW) and as of September 2018 that figure had grown more than 100-fold, to 1.1 GW.

The report states that the most conservative estimate of floating solar’s overall global potential based on available man-made water surfaces exceeds 400 GWp, which is equal to the 2017 cumulative installed PV capacity globally.

The greatest advantage of floating solar is that it avoids land acquisition and site preparation issues associated with traditional solar installations. In some cases, floating solar allows for power generation to be sited much closer to areas where demand for electricity is high. This makes the technology an attractive option for countries with high population density and competing uses for available land.

While up-front costs are slightly higher, the costs over time of floating solar are at par with traditional solar PV, because of floating solar’s higher energy yield due to the cooling effect of water.

Total capital expenditures for turnkey floating PV installations in 2018 generally range between USD 0.8–1.2 per Wp, depending on the location of the project, the depth of the water body, variations in that depth, and the size of the system. China is the only country that has yet built installations of tens to hundreds of megawatt-peak in size. The costs of smaller systems in other regions could vary significantly.

Japan remains a region with relatively high system prices, while China and India achieve much lower prices, a pattern that can also be seen in ground-mounted and rooftop solar systems when compared to the global average.

The technology is particularly promising for fast-growing Asian economies. Interest is growing rapidly in the region, and large plants are being installed or planned in China, India and Southeast Asia.

Still, some challenges exist including the lack of a long-standing track record, possible effects on water quality, complications related to the anchoring and mooring of installations, and the relative complexity of maintaining some parts of the installations – electrical components, in particular.

Despite these challenges, floating solar offers significant opportunities for the global expansion of solar energy capacity.

Source: World Bank Publication. Photo Credit: © Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS). World’s largest floating PV testbed managed by SERIS, located in Tengeh Reservoir, Singapore.