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Floating Solar: Is It The Future of Solar PV?

Solar power is becoming one of the most important sources of energy. It is a clean, renewable alterative to fossil fuels and it is common sight on the rooves of houses across the UK. In recent years there has been a growing trend for owners of industrial or agricultural land to consider huge solar panels arrays as a potential option for their unused space.

However, one of the challenges that solar panels face is to have an industrial array that is large enough to make financial sense, you need a lot of space. On land, there are many uses for that space, and it means that investing in solar panel arrays has a lot of competition for the room on the site. However, the idea of solar panels floating on water potentially solves this problem, as well as having a range of other benefits.

Large scale floating arrays can be installed on bodies of water such as ponds and lakes, as well as any commercial sites such as drink water reservoirs, irrigation canals and hydroelectric dam reservoirs. This space is completely unused and so this can be an extremely useful opportunity to make industrial bodies of water more profitable.

Before we take a look at the specific financial and environmental advantages of floating solar, we need to establish why it is a smart move to invest in solar panels at all.

A fantastic investment for businesses

With many businesses and industrial land owners looking to make the most out of their property, generating energy can be a fantastic way to earn from unused land. Solar panels have become a natural choice, as having a large array on your property can be extremely profitable. In fact, when you install a qualifying solar panel system in the UK you will be paid for every kWH of energy that you generate, whether you use or not. The return on investment opportunities can be excellent.

Panels are low maintenance and have no moving parts so they deteriorate at an extremely slow rate. This means that once you have paid for an array there are very few on-going costs that you need to worry about.

Why is floating solar better than land-based panels?

It may be natural to think of solar panels purely as roof installations but in fact they can be placed anywhere across a property. Interestingly, recent research shows that floating solar cells are actually 11 per cent more efficient than solar panels based on land due to the natural cooling effect of the water the panels are sitting on.

Additionally, a common problem with placing solar panels on land is that their proximity to mud and other dirt can lead to them becoming dirty. Clean panels are much more efficient than unclean ones, so land panels may require a great deal of cleaning and maintenance. While this problem is not eliminated on floating panels, it is a much less significant problem.

The environmental impact

There are obvious environmental benefits for generating clean energy with solar panels, and if floating solar allows you to do this in a more efficient way, then it is a better option. However, there are a number of additional eco benefits for choosing floating solar panels.

A good example of this is that the added shade over the water helps to minimise the bloom of algae around the array. The shade additionally reduces the heating of the water and can reduce the evaporation of water. It has also been shown floating solar PV even help to limit the erosion of embankments in reservoirs.  

The drawbacks of floating solar

Of course, there are some drawbacks with floating solar panels. The first is obvious; you need a body of water with a relatively conventional shape in order to maximise your array. There is a second problem that when you do need to carry out maintenance on your panels it can be a slow process with technical challenges.

If you are considering having any kind of solar panel installation at your industrial property it is recommended that you consult with a local firm with expertise. The right kind of array will depend on your overall needs and requirements, as well as the practicalities of your property or land.

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