Oil and water don’t mix, but solar and water do.
The UK has just built and powered up Europe’s largest floating solar photovoltaic (PV) farm in the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir next to London’s Heathrow airport.
The solar array (which is expected to generate 6.3 MW of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 1,800 homes) will not connect to the National Grid. Once final testing is completed, the array will power a privately owned electrical grid at the Thames Water plant, where it is expected to provide 20% of that facility’s operating electricity needs.
The experimental project has several advantages. Floating panels benefit from constant cooling provided by the water below. Such projects are also easier and less expensive to build, and scalable. Individual solar PV panels are placed onto their platforms and floated out to the main unit, where they are simply attached and anchored (in this case, to one of the 177 anchors that hold the entire unit in place).
In addition to using space that is not being used for other purposes, additional panels can be easily added in the future.
Another advantage is that the array shields the water from the sun, reducing evaporation and the growth of algae.
UK-based Lightsource, Europe’s largest developer and operator of solar PV projects, works with landowners, businesses, local communities, and homeowners to help them produce clean electricity. Other companies in the floating solar array business include Australia’s Sunengy, France’s Ciel & Terre, and Israel’s Solaris Synergy.
I’ve seen the future, and it floats.
British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover’s since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize.” You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Lightsource.