Written by: Madeline Warner
In July, a floating PV plant came online in the Netherlands; this is now the largest floating PV (photovoltaic power station) plant in the world outside of China. This plant provides 27.4 MW, enough power for 7200 households and businesses. In comparison, the largest floating PV plant in the world, located in Anhui Province, China, has the capacity to generate 150 MW, about five times as much power (Time).
There are many benefits to floating PV plants. They often repurpose unused, man-made bodies of water in order to create large solar plants without taking up valuable land. These bodies of water were often originally part of coal quarries or mineral extraction pits. (Baywa). Using facilities like the aforementioned is much simpler than using large plots of land; land is often more expensive, and the use of large swaths of land often involves extensive political fights, particularly in the European Union (Baywa).
There are still some questions that need to be answered about floating PV plants, particularly because of how quickly this technology has been popularized. While the use of water resources instead of land could potentially be simpler and less challenged, the legal requirements of these floating power projects are unclear (Baywa, K&L). A major reason contributing to the popularity of such projects is avoiding political and legal battles, so once this becomes more regulated it is unclear if they will remain as appealing.
There is reason to believe that this type of solar power is only growing, and has the capacity to power entire cities. A study released by the World Bank says that there is a potential for 2014 GWp to be generated by floating PV plants in Europe alone, if 10% of man-made freshwater resources were utilized (World Bank via Euractiv). South Korea is currently working on creating a floating PV plant that would allegedly generate 2.7GW of energy; Korea also aims to use the same complex to generate up to 300MW of wind energy—this is part of Korea’s pledge to reach their target of 30% renewable energy by 2040 (Recharge). Any of these goals being met has the potential to transform the way that towns, cities, and even countries power themselves.