Minnesota might be known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Florida is pretty water-dense too. The state has 30,000 lakes spread across three million acres of land—most non-navigable. Florida is the third most populous state but only the 22nd largest state by area. People and unusable waterways are taking up a lot of space in the Sunshine State, leaving little room for significant solar projects.
That’s why floating solar—or floatovoltaics as it’s affectionately known—is a perfect fit for this watery, yet sunny state. The Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) seems to understand this. Taking a look at an aerial map, the utility’s service area is peppered with a lot of blue. The Orlando International Airport looks like it’s trapped in the middle of a spider web of waterways. OUC knows that floating solar is its best option to bring more solar into its energy portfolio.
So the utility pushed out a 31.5-kW floating array on one of its storm water storage reservoirs in February 2017. The project uses the expertise of French floatovoltaics godfather Ciel & Terre and newcomer installer D3Energy of Florida. Ciel & Terre, which manufactures the Hydrelio HDPE-floats that hold the panels and wires, has 60-MW of floating experience globally. This project is the first major floating array in Florida and one of only a handful in the United States.
“We were delighted to work with the Orlando Utilities Commission and D3Energy on this project,” said Eva Pauly-Bowles, international sales director of Ciel & Terre International. “This is the first stepping stone in our development of floating PV projects among public entities in the United States. D3Energy is an excellent local partner that has continued to be a great advocate for floating PV and continues to spread the word about our alternative to traditional ground-mount and rooftop systems.”
D3Energy, now exclusively working on floating projects, reached out to Ciel & Terre after CEO and president Lowell Dunn recognized the underutilization of the state’s bodies of water. With some previous construction experience and an entrepreneurial nature, Dunn wanted to do good for Mother Earth and partner with Ciel & Terre on floatovoltaics. D3Energy doesn’t plan to explore other more traditional solar projects.
“We think this is a very niche market,” Dunn said of floating solar. “Ciel & Terre is by far the Google of floating solar. They’re fabulous partners.”