Floating photovoltaics (FPV) is fast becoming cost-competitive

An analysis that compared the benefits of floating solar panels to the construction of new dams found that solar panels could negate the need for more dams. 

According to Anthropocene Magazine, the study is the first to analyze floating solar panels on a continental scale. The study focused on Africa, where electricity demand is predicted to triple by 2050. 

The study found that floating solar panels, or floating photovoltaics, were more efficient at providing energy than land-based solar panels. The water helps keep the panels cool so they operate at optimal temperatures. The floating panels can also operate on the existing hydropower dam’s infrastructure to feed electricity into the grid. 

The researchers examined the African continent’s energy system to analyze the positive and negative effects of floating photovoltaics on energy production, environmental protection, agriculture, and economic development.

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The researchers found that if Africa installed the floating solar panels as widely as possible, they could generate energy from as little as 20% to 100% of the power expected to be produced from the hydropower dams planned for construction. 

The paper, published in Nature Energy, said, “Floating photovoltaics (FPV) is fast becoming cost-competitive, but its social and environmental impacts are under debate.”

It also said: “Meanwhile, developing economies anticipate hundreds of new dams over the next decade, with social and environmental implications for the next century.”

One of the negatives of hydropower dams is they can be unreliable with rising droughts due to increasing temperatures. For instance, Costa Rica had to start rationing power in May due to lower water levels in the dams. In this instance, it was due to El Niño, which warms the ocean surfaces and shifts the jet stream to move south, which causes drier conditions, especially in the Pacific region. 

Dams can also harm the environment. For example, hundreds of thousands of Chinook salmon were found dead after being released into the Klamath River. The water pressure in the tunnel may have been too much for them since they were found downstream of the Iron Gate dam. 

While floating solar panels aren’t a perfect solution because they disrupt fishing, they’re a better option than creating more dams, which would increase the negative impact on communities and the environment. 

The salmon aren’t the only fish dying. Many fish have become extinct due to dams. In addition, forests, wetlands, and farmland have been lost, all of which can deplete a community’s food resources and impact the local economy. 

Solar panels are also a cheaper and cleaner energy source, so they can save communities money while having less of an impact on the environment since they don’t produce polluting gases.

by Mandy Carr, thecooldown.com