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Floating solar systems

Trend around floating PV: RWE participates in several projects of the new technology

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Floating PV technology reaches energy industry

Floating photovoltaics means floating solar plants on lakes and other bodies of water. The technology enables energy companies to expand solar power without taking up more land. In 2021, the installed capacity worldwide was significantly above two gigawatts and counting, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). Floating PV plant technology has enormous potential for generating energy and protecting the climate – potential that has barely been tapped into yet. In contrast to ground-mounted solar panels, PV modules are installed on floating structures and operate on a body of standing water or the sea.

Ground-mounted solar farms need plenty of space. In densely populated areas with a high energy demand, floating PV technology could provide the decisive advantage in the expansion of renewables. In Europe, and particularly in Germany, there are many artificial water bodies that fulfil the technological requirements for floating PV. According to a study by Fraunhofer ISE, 500 lakes at former opencast mining sites alone have a useful potential in the two-digit gigawatt range.

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How floating photovoltaics works

Solar modules that are mounted on floating platforms promise high yields. Their proximity to water could support the cooling of solar cells, thus enabling them to work efficiently even in hot weather conditions.

How this technology works in practice is demonstrated at RWE’s floating PV plant at the company’s Amer power station site in the Netherlands. Here, 13,400 solar modules with an installed capacity of 6.1 MWp generate green electricity. To prevent the modules from drifting off, for example in strong wind, they are anchored to 52 concrete blocks that have been placed at the bottom of the lake and that weigh 4.6 tonnes each. A total of 25 kilometres of cable were laid to bring the electricity onshore and feed it into the power plant grid.

How floating photovoltaics works

Promising research project in collaboration with Fraunhofer ISE and BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

RWE Renewables Europe & Australia, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) and Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus Senftenberg as well as other partners are aiming to further develop the innovative floating PV technology. The objective of the “PV2Float” research project is to test several floating PV systems with different designs under real-world conditions. Highlight of this project is the design, construction, operation and monitoring of a floating PV test plant. Different designs for the supporting structure, innovative anchoring systems and modules pointing in different directions will be compared with each other. In addition, a reference plant will be installed and operated on land.

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