Driven by increased investor interest and a growing project pipeline, utility-scale floating solar installations are set to take off globally over the next few years, a report from Fitch Solutions says.
The consultancy estimates that nearly 10GW of new floating solar capacity will be installed in the next five years, with Asian markets such as China, South Korea, India, Thailand and Vietnam expected to outperform.
While floating PV has been available for more than a decade, the report notes that a lack of knowledge and standards, in areas such as environmental impacts and regulations, have made projects relatively high risk. The technology is said to have remained under utilised, with less than 3GW installed globally by year-end 2019 – less than 1% of installed solar capacity around the world.
However, falling costs, a range of successful pilot projects and a better understanding of the benefits are leading to a growing interest and use of the technology.
When installed on reservoirs, Fitch highlights floating PV’s potential to reduce water evaporation and limit algae growth, while the water can have a cooling effect on the panels, increasing energy yield at some sites. Meanwhile, the co-location of floating solar farms with hydropower projects means that transmission and distribution infrastructure is already in place, removing some construction costs related to connecting to the grid.