The China Huaneng Group has announced that the 320,000-kilowatt floating solar power station in Dingzhuang has been put into operation, and everything works as expected. This is the world’s largest water surface photovoltaic farm, and it’s going to be combined with a 100,000-kilowatt onshore wind power project and an 8-megawatt storage unit.
The area occupied by the new floating farm is 7,000 acres (28,33 km2), and it was built on a water reservoir that belongs to Huaneng’s Dezhou 2.65 GW thermal power station. This is an excellent way to take advantage of an unused area that still receives sunlight, while it also helps slow down the water evaporation, which isn’t beneficial to reservoirs.
Floating solar farms generally come with the following unique advantages:
- They don’t take up land that could be used for other purposes.
- They are easy to install and decommission as no fixed structures are used.
- Partial water coverage improves water quality and reduces evaporation.
- The water body below the panels offers a natural cooling effect.
- Vertical Sun tracking is easier to achieve without wasting too much energy.
- Problems like algal blooms are minimized in basins where floating panels are deployed.
However, along with the advantages, there are inevitably some challenges too. These are summarized below:
- Engineers need to take extra precautions on all aspects of electrical safety as energy-carrying units on a large body of water pose great risk for leakage-induced electrocutions.
- Faster corrosion rates mean more durable materials need to be used, and maintenance is more frequent than onshore installations
- Even in locked bodies of water, wind can raise waves which in turn bring turbulence that can destabilize solar units or bend their unification elements.
- All maintenance activities are more complex and costly as they have to be performed on water.