Solar floating in India. Image: Tom Wang Shutterstock

China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea dominate the sector, but there are more and more projects in the Netherlands, India, France and the United States.

Floating photovoltaics could quickly become the third pillar of the solar market, after onshore and rooftop systems.

A new report from the Singapore Solar Energy Research Institute (SERIS), talks about the sector ready to fly to global capacity in the terawatt range. The document offers an in-depth view of the sector through the analysis of the most dynamic markets and exploitable potentials.

According to the authors, in December 2018, the accumulated installed capacity of floating solar was around 1.3 GW. But even though the technology started in 2008, most of the growth has only happened since late 2016.

China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have so far dominated the market for floating PV systems. However, SERIS – which operates the world’s largest floating test bed in Singapore – says a growing number of countries are coming into play with big business plans, including India, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France and the United States. States.

Most of the installations carried out to date are located in industrial and mining basins, drinking water reserves or irrigation basins, but a series of hydroelectric reservoir projects are starting to appear.

In these installations, the authors stress, however, special attention should be paid to the possible effects on the water regime downstream of the reservoir, which is normally subject to restrictions in terms of water management, agriculture, biodiversity. , navigation and livelihood.

The first experiences of floating photovoltaic energy at sea are also interesting.

Deploying FPV technologies near the coast could be of great interest to populated coastal cities. Indeed, this might be the only viable way for small island states to generate solar power on a large scale, given the limited availability of suitable land for onshore PV installations.

The document estimates that there are more than 400,000 square kilometers of fields in the world suitable for this technology, with an exploitable potential of more than 400 GWp.

The future development of the sector is mainly linked to cost reduction. Many of the expenses of these projects depend on the location of installation, its access, its depth and the fluctuation of the water level, as well as the floating structure carried out.

Several technical factors, as well as the environmental and social context, must be taken into account when deciding whether or not to implement floating solar energy. In some cases, projects may already be more competitive than PV on the ground.