Introduction: The Future of Solar Power: On the Water
Right now, there aren’t many types of green technology more impressive than solar power. The solar panel technology that we have right now is efficient, cost-effective, and relatively easy to maintain and install, not to mention the clear environmental benefits. However, this doesn’t mean that the technology has stopped evolving. Far from it, in fact, as there are scientists and researchers all around the world working on ways of improving upon our existing solar panels. One innovation that has a lot of people excited actually has less to do with the panels themselves and everything to do about where they’re installed.
Traditionally, we’ve seen solar panels installed on the rooftops of business and homes, out on unpopulated stretches of land, and sometimes even on existing farmland. However, more and more, people are looking to bodies of water as a place to install solar panels. While that might sound crazy at first glance, it’s actually a promising direction for the future of solar. We’ll take a deeper look in this blog.
Floating solar panels?
Simply put, the future of solar panels might involve them being installed on floating structures on top of existing bodies of water. Though this might seem strange – water and electricity aren’t meant to mix, after all – there are a surprising number of upsides involved. And, if this catches on, we might be seeing more of our electricity generated by solar panels that are lounging about on the water.
Why look to the water?
Well, perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is – why not? Why limit ourselves to the land when there’s so much surface area of water to take advantage of? While it’s easy enough to take advantage of rooftop space, for example, it can still be difficult to secure large amounts of land for solar. Even with our need for clean energy to stymy climate change, it can still be a hard sell. Why give up land to solar when it can be used for agriculture or housing, just to name a couple of examples. In this instance, water can be a much easier sell, especially since most floating solar projects take advantage of “ugly,” man-made bodies of water, like reservoirs, wastewater storage ponds, and agricultural irrigation ponds. Nobody wants to be around any of those anyway, so why not float some solar panels on them?
On top of that, water can actually help the efficiency of solar panels. Though solar panels, naturally, harness the power of the sun, they actually get less efficient the hotter they are. Water has a cooling effect on floating solar panels, and some studies suggest that this can increase electricity production by up to 12.5%. Now that’s an impressive output of clean energy.
However, there are further reasons to look at floating solar panels as the future of the technology.
Climate change and floating panels
Beyond the obvious benefits that solar panels have as clean energy, floating panels might have specific preventative effects against climate change, especially those installed on natural, freshwater bodies of water. Though these bodies of water make up only 1% of the Earth’s surface, they contain 6% of all biodiversity. Due to the effects of climate change, the surface temperatures of these freshwater lakes have risen by an average of 0.34°C per decade since 1985, all around the world. Rising surface temperatures can result in harmful algal blooms, lowering water levels, and can prevent water mixing between higher and lower levels of water, which prevents oxygen from reaching the bottom.
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