With more than 1 gigawatt already installed globally, the market potential of floating PV runs deep. But first developers and customers must feel comfortable taking the plunge.
Humans have been floating on water for thousands of years, so perhaps it was inevitable that they would build solar plants on it, too.
Floating photovoltaics have already delivered 1.1 gigawatts of installations worldwide, according to the World Bank. That’s a small slice of the broader solar industry, which now installs close to 100 gigawatts a year. That said, floating solar excels in markets where land is scarce or otherwise unavailable, and that tracks well with major growth markets for the solar industry, analysts noted at GTM’s Solar Summit in Scottsdale last week.
Putting solar on the water costs more than building it on land — although there is little data to show exactly how much — but it brings several operational benefits. Most importantly, it allows developers to generate power without taking land offline for other uses, which is already becoming table stakes in certain densely populated regions.
“It’s ideal in places where you have limited land availability,” said Teresa Barnes of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.