The Singapore Solar Energy Research Institute (SERIS) announced the publication of the Floating Solar Handbook for Practitioners, a practical guide for developers of photovoltaic projects floating on land and close to the coast.
The manual, produced with the support of the National University of Singapore and the World Bank Group's Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, aims to help developers of commercial or large-scale floating projects from planning to the operation and maintenance phase. The publication includes advice on site identification, feasibility studies, finance, environmental and social issues, purchasing, construction and commissioning.
The process of developing floating photovoltaic energy, in particular, differs markedly from that of floor and ceiling mounting systems, say the guide's authors.
The identification of suitable locations, for example, involves the consideration of bathymetry, underground soil conditions, water levels and wind speed, among other variables. "It is unlikely that a website will have all the desirable features," said the authors.
In relation to feasibility studies, the authors recommend an analysis of the energy performance that takes into account the best cooling of the modules, the main risks derived from dirt such as bird droppings and faster degradation of the electrical components.
For planning purposes, it is said that the quality of floating structures and anchoring systems is crucial, as well as the proper routing and management of cables. "The aquatic environment imposes stricter requirements in relation to electrical safety", wrote the authors.
In terms of financing, floating projects are considered more complex than onshore installations, as they require more contracted companies. “Given the lack of experience that banks, insurance companies and regulators have with the FPV [floating PV], it is likely that licenses and financial closing will take longer than in terrestrial photovoltaic projects”, notes the guide.
Floating projects also need to overcome more obstacles during the licensing phase, especially in countries with little experience in renewable energy and, in particular, in floating photovoltaic energy.
Prosecutors who plan floating plants of marine origin should try to avoid the area near the coast to avoid harmful environmental impacts. "The development of constituent technologies and the knowledge of the positive and negative impacts will be much greater if the initial installations are diligently monitored, which will entail some public expenditure", states the publication.
SERIS published a report in June indicating that there were around 1.3 GW of floating photovoltaic capacity installed worldwide at the end of 2018. An optimistic scenario considered by the authors predicted a potential generation capacity of 4,044 GW, if 10% of locations available in the world will host floating solar energy.