I recall when floating solar PV power plants popped onto the scene at some point in the past decade. On the one hand, the idea was so funny and fanciful that it seemed unrealistic. On the other hand, there appeared to be a lot of benefits to the approach — cooler surfaces (which help with solar panel efficiency, approx. 5–15%), fairly simple installation, no need to compete with other sectors for land use, no concern of shade, large and predictable spaces. The latter hand has indeed been winning out, as the floating solar PV market has been growing larger and larger.
The latest news of a large floating solar PV power project comes out of Singapore, a place that knows the challenges of limited land extremely well. The city-state, home to about 6 million people, launched one of the largest floating solar power plants in the world this week. The project will reportedly cover an area equal to 45 football fields! More specifically, but much harder for me to visualize without the previous comparison, the area covered is 45 hectares (111.2 acres). In total, there are 45,000 solar panels spread across the water. The purpose of this solar power plant floating over some good old H2O? Powering Singapore’s 5 water treatment plants, ironically.
That’s not where the fun of new tech used for good ends. Facility operators will use drones to monitor the PV facility. The solar panels are expected to last 25 years, but I would not be surprised to see them go much longer, especially with effective, smart maintenance.
The floating solar power plant is named Sembcorp Tengeh Floating Solar Farm and is located on the Tengeh Reservoir. The project, built by Sembcorp Floating Solar Singapore, a subsidiary of Sembcorp Industries, offers 60 megawatts (MW) of power capacity. A short video of progress to date was published a couple of days ago at the link above. As cool as the concept of floating solar PV power plants is, and as cool as pictures of a large project are, I don’t think the concept or a few pictures compare to watching a video of a large project (even one that’s just 55 seconds long), so I do recommend clicking that link above and watching the production from The Straits Times/Singapore Press Holdings Limited. (No, we don’t have any association with them or get rewarded if you do. I just think the video is super cool.)
For those concerned about the aquatic life under the innovative power plant, have no fear — extensive environmental analyses were conducted, the project is designed to allow adequate sunlight to go through to the plants and animals underneath, and this type of project has been shown to assimilate well with fish, mermaids, and other sea creatures.
Singapore has been sold on floating solar power. Aside from this large project, the city-state has 4 other floating solar projects under construction. I expect more to be announced in the future as well. Overall, Singapore is aiming to quadruple its solar power use by 2025, and let’s be honest, it’s not flush with deserts or underutilized fields — but it is surrounded by a fair bit of water.
Solar power is growing across the world at a fairly fast clip. However, as with almost all things, there are limitations. There are limitations with resources, trained workers, cash money, and time. Therefore, there is always a question of how best to spend money, where to spend it, and what to do after you’ve spent it. How and where should one — whether a person, company, or city-state — invest in solar power to maximize the result?
Clearly, Singapore has decided that floating solar PV projects make a lot of sense for its needs and resources. For anyone else still weighing options. Or, for that matter, for anyone looking to maximize the output from a solar power project already in the ground, I recommend checking out an upcoming solar webinar we’re hosting. Along with HST and a couple of others, we will be exploring how solar project developers can support a larger pipeline of high-quality utility-scale solar projects with the same amount of time and people. We will also be looking at what can maximize project attraction for potential customers. If this sounds interesting to you, you can register for the webinar (it’s free) here.