By the end of 2022, the total capacity of floating solar power plants (floating photovoltaics – FPV) in the world will reach 5.2 GW, by 2025 this figure may grow to 13 GW, according to the New Year report of the consulting company Deloitte. Its analysts have tried to predict the near future of the most fashionable technologies.
However, the possibilities for the development of such stations substantially depend on the region of the planet. FPVs are especially promising where the landscape or lack of free land makes it difficult to build ground-based solar stations, notes Deloitte.
In the Asia-Pacific region, floating solar power plants are most widely used today. The focus of many APR states on the use of renewable energy sources is noted. But agriculture and housing construction with high population densities leads to land scarcity and makes the construction of land-based stations commercially unprofitable.
In these circumstances, FPV is becoming the most likely energy alternative with increasing demand for electricity. Already in 2020, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 90% of the world’s capacities of this type of power plants.
Africa could also be another ripe market for water-based power plants. The countries of the mainland are experiencing problems with the reliability of electricity supplies, faced with droughts and drying up of reservoirs due to the abundant sun. One of the scientific studies showed that if only 1% of the surface of reservoirs at hydroelectric power plants is covered with floating solar panels, the generating capacities of the continent’s countries will increase to 58 GW.
FPV can spread in Europe with its renewable energy policy. Their implementation could accelerate the EU’s commitment (under the Fit for 55 program) to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030.
Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Norway are considering deploying FPVs on hydroelectric reservoirs and along coastlines. Pilot research is underway in the North and Adriatic Seas.
In other regions of the world, interest in FPV is weaker, as is the justification for its use, although states may offer incentive measures.
Ground-based power plants continue to dominate the United States, where there is no shortage of land. However, here, too, they began to pay attention to the possibilities of FPV. They can be deployed on lakes, basins, water treatment facilities, drinking water reservoirs, dam reservoirs, tidal shallows, or on the coast.
The authors of the report admit that the use of FPV is associated with risks and uncertainties: lack of experience and personnel for their production and operation, the complexity of the production of floating panels. The long-term environmental impact of these power plants is unknown and are difficult to operate in high wind conditions.
But, despite these risks, as well as the fact that the installation of such stations is costly, and adverse weather factors carry additional risks, the environmental and operational benefits of floating power plants can outweigh the potential risks and generate interest among investors and energy buyers, Deloitte believes.