Water places and solar energy



Floating solar panels, a solution for occupied territories ?

This solution was born in the Napa Valley, California.
With nearly 320 days of sunshine per year, California is an area particularly suited to solar energy production. This type of solution is part of an actual issue of sustainable development, namely economic, since in this famous wine region in California, the cost per acre of vineyard (about 4,000 m²) varies between 200,000 and 300,000 dollars.

In this context, to implement these innovative solutions, based on solar panels, such installations should provide an equivalent level of profitability, or greater, to the local wine industry. In other words, for investors, a solar field in the Napa Valley, is not that much an economic opportunity, and it is worth investing in wine.

Given the strong economic pressures associated with the land rising value in the Napa Valley, a company had the innovative idea, to use an artificial body of water to support solar panels installations. It has thus become the first worldwide company to develop floating solar panels, installed on water already allocated for industrial or agriculture use (water recycling tanks, reservoirs of hydraulic systems, canals that are not navigable …). It is worth noting that the selected areas are artificial areas, where there is no aquatic biodiversity.

Source – AFP

The special feature of the installation enables an economic boom in the area and keeps the wine heritage activity generating strong economic value, while not putting more pressure on the environment, since the aquatic zones are already used for another use. This project is part of an economic, social and environmental management. Moreover the fact that solar panel fields are based on water, shows an additional opportunity in terms of light transformation efficiency into electricity, with a higher rate of production of 20%, greater than on an installation situated in a typical ground-mounted system. The best performance of the installation is made possible by water, which cools the silicon of the photovoltaic panel.

However these solutions are designed to man-made aquatic places, rather quiet places, completely or partly sheltered … This use in the sea is not suitable because of the risks of storms and tides.

Economic : 8.5/10
This solution preserves the original wine industry (creating economic value) and develops a new axis of growth in renewable energy. This solution meets local needs in places that have water areas available.

Social : 7/10
Having on its territory an aquatic solar field may become an opportunity for sustainable tourism development with a awared public, on the issues of sustainable development.
This also allows communities, to anchor their policies and concrete actions in favor of renewable energy and thus, to contribute to improving their corporate social responsible image towards their stakeholders.
However, this type of solution has a limited interest in terms of employment and social growth.

Environmental : 8/10
This solution seems to be managed from an environmental perspective (use of artificial water areas, respecting the original land). It also helps to bring renewable energy in areas, where they could not be installed, on land already in use, and it allows to meet increasing energy demand.

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