Cost savings and scarcity of land or water are what will drive the floating solar trend forward and bring more governments on board
The Netherlands is developing the world's largest solar panel island project to fight rising sea levels.
The project consists of 15 floating solar islands on the Andijk Reservoir in North Holland, containing 73,500 panels. The solar islands will be the first sun-tracking islands of this size in the world, reports World Economic Forum.
"It's no coincidence that this adaptation was born in the Netherlands, as people there already live below sea level," said Arnoud Vandruten, managing director of Floating Solar, a solar panel supplier of the project.
"We can fight the rising of the sea level in the Netherlands with building even higher dikes or living on the water," says Vandruten. "So, that is the reason why we changed our focus from putting solar panels on rooftops and land to water. We adapt by moving the energy supply from land to the rising water. We can also experiment with moving complete housing districts to the water, while being energy positive or at least neutral."
Because the sun-tracking panels face the sun all day they can absorb more energy. Additionally, being on water provides useful dynamics that are not possible on land.
"You have to make the system flexible so it can adapt to the energy of the waves and at the same time the panels can act as sails," says Vandruten adding "Because we can turn the island with the sun, the other advantage is you can put an island in such a position that it is not harmed by the wind."
Solar panel islands are also being built in Japan, China, Chile and the UK. Ramez Naam, Co-Chair of Energy and Environment at Singularity University, says that ultimately, cost savings and scarcity of land or water are what will drive the floating solar trend forward and bring more governments on board.
"Where land is scarce like in Japan, solar on reservoirs is a great way to deploy it in an area that otherwise couldn't be used," explains Naam. "When water cools down, the solar panels increase their efficiency and they then actually produce more electricity. Plus, solar over water can reduce evaporation losses from those reservoirs, ponds, canals and so on."
Naam added that the price of solar electricity has dropped dramatically.
"In sunny parts of the world, solar is now just plain cheaper than coal or gas electricity," he says." In some places, building new solar or even new wind is cheaper or is about to be cheaper than continuing to operate on existing coal and gas."