Floating Solar Plants – UPSC GS3

Floating Solar Plants:
  • It refers to the deployment of photovoltaic panels on the surface of water bodies. They are a viable alternative to land-based solar arrays with applications in India.
  • There are a large number of major reservoirs in the Southern Region which provides a huge opportunity to go for renewable energy in the floating solar method.
  • Projects Coming up in India:
  • The thermal plant at Ramagundam would be one of the renewable (solar) energy plants being developed by NTPC with an installed capacity of 447MW in the Southern Region and the entire capacity would be commissioned by March 2023.
  • The renewable energy plants that are likely to be commissioned in the next three months are 25MW floating solar plant at Simhadri thermal power plant near Visakhapatnam and 92MW floating solar plant at Kayamkulam in Kerala.
Advantages:
  • Address Land Acquisition Issues: The key challenges that face renewable energy plant owners are land acquisition, grid connectivity, regulations and off-take.
  • Floating solar plants balance high population density and competing uses for available land. The land can be used for other purposes, such as farming or construction.
  • Cooling Effect: The bodies of water exert a cooling effect, which improves the performance of solar photovoltaic panels by 5-10%.
  • Over time, this translates into significant cost savings.
  • Other Advantages: Reduced grid interconnection costs, reduced water evaporation, improved water quality, and reduced algal blooming.
Challenges:
  • Increased Cost: Engineering and construction costs are usually higher than those of a ground-mounted solar farm.
  • Safety Issues: Since floating solar involves water and electricity, more consideration must be given to cable management and insulation testing than on land, especially when cables are in contact with water.
  • Degradation and Corrosion: A floating solar plant has moving parts that are subject to constant friction and mechanical stress.
  • Systems that are poorly designed and maintained could suffer from catastrophic failures.
  • The installation is at risk of degradation and corrosion due to moisture, especially in more aggressive coastal environments.
  • Understanding of Water-bed Topography: Developing floating solar projects requires a thorough understanding of water-bed topography and its suitability for setting up anchors for floats.