Turning to a sustainable and clean energy production model is urgent. The planet is undergoing abrupt changes through carelessness and greed, and we don’t have much longer to make amends. Renewable energies are the primary hope to mitigate the action of anthropocentric climate change. As a result, thousands of companies worldwide are working on improving technology for efficient energy production from renewable sources. One of them has designed a network of floating solar panels capable of tracking the Sun throughout the day.
The science and other stuff to know
SolarisFloat is a Portuguese company specializing in solar energy. They have developed Protevs, a floating solar panel prototype that can rotate throughout the day to follow the Sun and make the most of its rays. The double-sided panels rotate around two axes with mechanical sensors, allowing greater absorption of solar rays and increasing efficiency.
The idea of building floating panel islands on expanses of water arose from the need to produce clean energy without occupying large tracts of land. Countries like Japan or Great Britain, where land is scarce, might favor this solution because it moves towards a more sustainable model since it occupies expanses of water instead of land that can be used for forestation or agriculture.
Regarding high temperatures reducing the panels’ energy capacity, floating solar farms solve an efficiency problem: the water on which the installations are suspended acts as a natural refrigerant that cools the solar panels, optimizing their function.
One of the indirect benefits of implementing this technology is the preservation of the water ecosystems in which they are found. For example, regulating water temperature caused by the extension of panels’ shade discourages the growth of toxic algae in biodiversity. It also contributes to reducing evaporation. For example, a study published in Science found that an island of floating solar panels reduced evaporation from a wetland in Jordan by 42 percent.
Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO of Singapore Solar Energy Research Institute (SERIS), told the BBC: “Floating solar power is a fairly new [renewable energy] option, but it has huge potential globally.” He and his colleagues are aware of the challenges in carrying out a project of this nature. Still, they maintain that covering only 10 percent of the surface of lakes and dams in the world could significantly exceed the energy generated by the current territorial extensions.
Combining the benefits of floating solar farms is key to addressing the problems plaguing some regions where land and water are scarce. However, Reindl says that SolarisFloat and other companies in the industry must be careful to keep production and installation costs affordable while investigating possible adverse effects on water and ecosystems.