THE SUN IS POWER. Humans have interpreted this power in various forms throughout history and this power has come to symbolize a multitude of things in different civilizations. From the Aztecs to the Celts- the solar deity played a key role in the system of belief… but what if I told you that we aren’t quite done with this worship of the sun? Perhaps not in relation to divination, but in a type of reverence that brings economic, ecologic and sustaining benefits. Solar panels are nothing out of the ordinary in today’s society, but what is interesting now is how we are creatively stationing them on land, as well as on water. The latter use has seen a boom since 2016 – but why are we placing them on water and does it really make a difference?
It may sound ironic, but when using solar panels, the problem lies in that they become too hot. Maximum efficiency of solar panels is around 15 °C and 35 °C during which solar cells will produce at maximum efficiency. Of course, the size of the negative effect varies between different panels, but one common example is that electricity production decreases by about 1 percent for each degree warmer than 40. So how do you solve it? It is common practice that solar power companies flush water on the panels or place them at a high altitude where the temperature is lower. The latest trend, including Japan, India and Australia, is to build floating solar panels. The idea is that the cold from the water should maintain the temperature in the panels.
Numbers tell one part of the story. . .
A sensational quote came from Martha Maeda in her book How to Solar Power Your Home which made us doubt it as soon as we read it – it suggested that “every 24 hours, enough sunlight touches the Earth to provide the energy for the planet for 24 years”. To corroborate this claim, we looked at statistics from the US Department of Energy – they stated that 430 quintillion (a thousand raised to the power of six) Joules of energy hits the Earth every hour. With humans using 410 quintillion every year, this claim can be supposed to be true. In China, a country that produces and consumes much of the world’s energy, they are trying out new ways to create a sustainable model for their future; solar panels are even being experimented with as road surfaces on highways, not to mention placing them on water. In other countries where there is a shortage of land, islands of solar panels have been shown to do be effective. The US Deparment of Energy also believes that 24,000 reservoirs with floating solar panels would cover ten percent of the country’s energy needs. But it is not in the United States but in Asia where the technology is exploding – even at sea.
The very first plant was installed 13 years ago, but over the past four years, floating solar panels have exploded. Asia is the sleeping giant that is awakening after a long rest and is getting stronger – the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) believes. Of the 1.1 gigawatts generated by the entirety of the world’s floating panels, plants located in China, Japan, India and South Korea generate 450 megawatts. The latest Chinese addition is a plant that has 166,000 panels that provide a capacity of 40 megawatts. As land becomes an issue for energy conversion, these countries look towards their coastlines to set up these islands of solar panels that will be of growing importance in the coming years.
From experimentation to reality. . .
The world’s largest test of floating solar cells started in Singapore in 2017. ABB, a Swiss-Swedish MNC contributed with insulated circuit breakers. At Tengeh Reservior in Singapore, solar energy solutions were tested from several different suppliers to study performance and cost efficiency. This testing phase came to a successful implementation. According to the StraitsTimes, Sunseap, a sustainable energy provider group that participated in the project used this experience to launch the largest offshore floating solar panel system outside the Straits of Johor. According to the same source, this is what can be awaited: The platform will be able to generate about 6,388 MWh of renewable energy annually, which is equivalent to powering about 1,250 four-room flats. The use of solar energy also means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of about 2,600 tonnes every year, over the next 25 years and beyond. It is said it will be operation in 2019.
Even in Sweden, interest in floating solar cells is increasing since 2015 when a mysterious, intriguing story appeared. In a secret lake in Värmland, Sweden’s first floating solar cells were tested. They reached 20 degrees below zero and battled 34 centimetre thick ice. Nordic Solar, which continues to install solar cells around the country also launched floating solar cells in the vicinity of Karlstad that fall. The floating facility consisted of nine interconnected floating blocks with a solar cell module of 255 W.
– It is a fun technology, and we want to see if it can be used also in Sweden, says Robert Nordqvist at Nordic Solar, who previously made over 200 solar cell installations off the shore (Source: NyTeknik)
At Evolvera, we definitely agree with the words of Mr. Nordqvist and look forward to hearing about more feats around the world, not just in Asia and the innovative Nordic countries. We spend so much time on this Earth and on land, but we seem to forget that we’re standing on 29% of the total capabilities (and beyond?). The ocean, which makes up 71% of our Earth, should be treasured and protected – but if it means helping humans sustain themselves in order to dampen the effects of some of our own destruction – then let us build more of these “solar-islands”.
Evolvera – evolve in a new era.