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The price of solar energy drops on a yearly basis as the technology gets more widely adopted around the planet. Innovations in the field of solar energy are happening at a rapid pace due to the speed of adoption of solar energy. One of the latest developments is the advent of floatovoltaics. Floating solar arrays, or floatovoltaics, are solar arrays that are designed to float on the surface of water. The solar panels used possess special coatings to slow down rusting and corrosion.
Floatovoltaics is expected to become the next big thing in solar energy as it has quite a few benefits when compared to solar arrays on the ground. The system has been adopted on a small scale in water reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and canals in numerous countries around the world with commercial applications a long way away. So why exactly are floatovoltaics expected to grow in popularity?
Land is expensive across the world and its use is heavily regulated. However, there are lesser regulations for structures built on water bodies that are not utilized for recreation. Hence, there is a much lower initial cost for companies that seek to enter the floatovoltaic market. Floatovoltaics are currently not cheaper than traditional solar arrays, with a wide scale usage of these arrays the cost would reduce.
Floatovoltaics are estimated to be at least 8-10% more efficient at capturing solar energy than land-based PV cells. This is because water keeps the solar arrays relatively cooler when compared to land arrays. Solar arrays are less efficient when they heat up so the presence of water is an added benefit. A regular, silicon-based solar array (most arrays are made of silicon) loses about .5% efficiency for every 1°C rise in temperature.
As the population grows, land space becomes dearer. By constructing floating solar panels, we can use land for other vital needs such as agriculture and living space. The aesthetic quality comes into play as well. Solar panels would be far away from the naked eye and they would be less obtrusive than they are on land. Japan is one of the leaders in the development of floatovoltaics as the country does not possess a lot of land space.
Floatovoltaics reduce the speed of water’s evaporation as they shield water from sunlight. This would be a huge boon in drought-hit areas such as Australia as energy could be produced and water could be partially conserved simultaneously. This would be a huge boon in the tropical areas where summers can get extreme and drinking water is a premium resource.
The absence or ensuing absence of land is the major reason for the recent development of photovoltaics. There are a lot of things still unknown about this technology such as the life of the panels and its suitability to saltwater. However, wide scale adoption of floatovoltaics in the near future seems to be a reality.
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