Japan recently unveiled the largest floating solar panel system in the world. Located at Hyogo Prefecture in Western Japan, this floating solar farm produces 2.3 MW and can power 820 homes. It positions Japan at the forefront of aquatic based solar panels. Other countries are quickly catching up though, especially as the benefits of this technology become more apparent.

The Production Process

The panels for the Hyogo Prefecture project were made by a Japanese electronics corporation called Kyocera. They’re responsible for producing, installing and maintaining the system. The capital for the project came from a Japanese holding corporation and the electricity from the panels gets sold directly to Japanese power authorities.

The floating solar farm is 77 metres wide and 333 metres long. All together it takes up about 25,000 square metres. That’s enough room to fit 26 average British homes. Even though this solar installation takes up so much space, the installation time is significantly less than the installation time for a land based solar panel farm.

Finding an Ideal Location

This solar farm is located on top of an inland reservoir. That means calm water and little chance for anything to go wrong. However, even though they sit in docile waters, the panels are rated to withstand winds up to 190 kilometres an hour. Ideally, in the future the technology will reach a point where the panels can be reliably installed offshore.

Once that happens, countries located on the ocean will have a nearly unlimited amount of space in which to build solar farms. For now, these floating solar power stations are primarily located on reservoirs, which give them the calm conditions they need to ensure optimal operation.

The Benefit of Installing Panels on the Water

Solar panels are more efficient at a lower temperature. The water underneath these panels cools them down, which increases efficiency by up to 11%. Over their twenty year lifespan, an 11% advantage over land based panels can mean a significant increase in energy production.

Another benefit is that these solar panels block sunlight from hitting the water. That inhibits the growth of unwanted algae and reduces evaporation. Recently the American city of Los Angeles released 96 million plastic balls to cover a reservoir and reduce evaporation. They could have achieved the same result by installing a floating solar panel farm.

For smaller countries like Japan, one of the biggest benefits of floating solar panels is that they don’t take up any extra space. By placing solar panels out on the water, they can generate renewable energy without worrying about taking up limited land.

Floating Solar Panels Around the World

After the success that Japan has enjoyed with their floating solar panels, other countries have begun to jump on the bandwagon. Brazil has announced plans to build a new floating solar panel farm that will be magnitudes larger than Japan’s. India also has plans for a large floating solar power farm.

The UK installed its first floating panels in 2014. The panels are expected to pay for their quarter-million pound price tag after six years. While they may be more expensive to install, they make up for the price by being more efficient and not taking up any land. The future of the technology is promising, especially given the continual price decrease in solar panels. In twenty years floating solar arrays may be a normal sight on any reservoir or lake.

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