With the passage of years after years, the industry of solar has been hitting new highs. As a result, scientists are coming up with advanced and more innovative solar technology capabilities that are useful for producing more electricity than the previous iterations.
Floating solar panels are the recent breakthrough and maybe the next bigger innovation in the renewable energy sector.
Generally, a 1MW solar project requires 2.5 to 4 acres of land for the installation. Once the installation of the solar is completed, the land cannot be used for other purposes.
This problem could have been solved by floating solar panels in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and many more. All these countries have little land to waste.
If you want to install a system for heavy or specific usage, always remember to go through some of the pros and cons of floating solar panels.
Here in this article, we have mentioned some of the reasons why and where floating panels are used and whether it is applicable to you or not.
What Do You Mean By Floating Solar Panels?
Floating solar panels are photovoltaic panels that are generally made up of buoyant photovoltaic cells.
A while back, the solar system was a unique system to be installed, but modern science has made this concept a new reality. The very first floating solar panel was created in the labs of the Japanese institute in 2007.
These floating panels make utilization of advanced technology to make them lighter in weight and easy to install on water. The production of floating solar systems is done from magnesium alloy, which makes the panel body 2.5 times lighter than the usual ones. They also have an increased strength against corrosion.
What is the overall workability of the floating solar panels?
A few technical specifications make floating panels different from conventional ones.
Floating photovoltaics make use of pontoons so that they can carry the solar power generator over the water bodies.
Pontoons are made of rigid polymers that hold the photoelectric modules on them, which helps in the generation of electricity from solar energy.
The role of the PV cells of the floating panels is to absorb the incident solar energy from the sunlight and convert it into electricity with the help of solar inverters. This consists of semiconductors. The execution of the process is done by using a chain of chemical reactions.
The generated electricity is then transferred and stored in a transmission center from these panels with the help of underwater cables.
These types of solar systems are lighter in weight; these floating solar panels use an anchoring system which is commonly known as the mooring system. The mooring system helps them to stay in a fixed position instead of floating away.
As per the requirement of the projects, the mooring system usually varies.
What is the impact of floating solar panels on the environment?
- Floating solar panels have both positive as well as negative impacts on the environment.
- Floatovoltaics can help in resisting excessive evaporation from water bodies. They also control the algae bloom, which helps in keeping the water clean.
- As suggested by the experts, prolonged usage of floating panels can effectively minimize the concentration of greenhouse gasses, which includes carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, in the atmosphere.
- Floating solar panels may block a large amount of sunlight over a water body. As a result, underwater plants and algae get affected.
- Solar photovoltaics contains a heavy metal cadmium telluride.
- After coming in contact with rainwater, the water gets contaminated with this metal which is not suitable for the organisms of that water body.
Negative Effects Of Solar Farms
High upfront cost
Solar farms are expensive to set up. The longevity and low maintenance give solar farms economic benefits.
The production of solar energy is clean and doesn’t harm the environment in any way. The manufacture, transportation, and setting up of solar farms contribute to GHG emissions and air pollution. Moreover, the decommissioned solar panels contain toxic materials and result in land and water pollution.
Dependent on the availability of sunlight
This is one of the major drawbacks of solar energy. Solar farms can help in the generation of electricity only when the sun is shining. This contributes to its low capacity factor.
Requires large areas
Solar farms are spread over large areas as space is required for setting up solar panels. This simply states that solar farms often come up on cultivable land. Solar farms on agricultural land render large tracts of land unusable and can impact food production.
Waste generated by decommissioned panels
The generation of waste material is one of the serious concerns of solar farms. After the breaching of the lifespan of the solar, the solar panels become too low on efficiency and are decommissioned. These wastes are later turned into solid waste. The toxic substances present in solar panels can pollute the land and water if they are not disposed of responsibly.
Inability to control production
Solar farms can work forward to their maximum capacity only when sufficient sunlight is available. When there is high energy demand, it is not possible to ramp up production, as in the case of coal-fuelled thermal power plants. When the energy demand is low, there is no system in place to lower energy generation.
Low efficiency of solar technology
The best part about solar system is that they are made up of monocrystalline silicon and has an efficiency of about 20%. In other simple words, the system can convert only 20% of the incident sunlight. Polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels come with further lower efficiencies. Meanwhile, the efficiency of thermal power plants hovers between 35-50%.
Lowers the value of the property
The availability of a large solar farm is a sore sight for the eyes. It covers the entire area of vegetation. Over the globe, most people would consider this unsuitable for setting up their homes. The negative effects of solar farms on property values are a fact.
One of the major complaints about solar farms is the dangers of living next to solar farms. However, many prominent members of the scientific and medical fraternity have reassured the general public that there is no evidence of health risks involved in living next to a solar farm. These solar panels are absolutely safe in residential areas.
Use of rare natural resources
Solar farms use high-efficiency solar panels that are made up of high-grade monocrystalline silicon. There is an abundant availability of sand or silicon that makes the panels an expensive and energy-intensive process. The latest solar panels use polycrystalline silicon or rarer materials such as Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). It has limited availability.
Do Solar Farms Damage The Soil?
Solar panels are properly sealed. Thus, they ensure that none of the material is exposed to the surrounding environment.
However, it causes damage to the seal, and the chances are likely to be harmful toxic materials.
Another major concern is the productivity of the land.
Are Solar Farms Good For The Environment?
Solar farms are good for the environment, as they produce power without producing CO2. For those who claim they release pollution and CO2 when they are made, they are correct.
- Solar farm's impact on wildlife
- Switching to solar energy is supposed to be helpful for the environment.
- The residential solar system is not going to hurt the environment.
Residential solar panels do not harm wildlife when installed in a proper way. Some large-scale solar plants have caused disruptions in the surrounding ecosystems because of the heat produced by the panels, the increased fire risk, and the usage of water. More testing still needs to be done to determine the full long-term effect that these plants might have on wildlife.
Floating solar panels have innumerable benefits that can usually diminish the usage of non-renewable sources of energy.
Even if the technology is already in its final stage, its availability and price question its widespread usage.
If scientists can find a way to decrease the price and make the panel with eco-friendly material, the concept may gain worldwide popularity in the next few years.