Flotovoltaics stand for floating photovoltaics. In this emerging technology, solar arrays are placed over water bodies for generation of electricity, by capturing the light and heat from sun. Photovoltaics(PV) is a term that indicates conversion of light into electricity with the application of semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. The photovoltaic technology being used in flotovoltaics is similar to traditional solar technology, the difference being that the platforms with PV panels float in water. Flotovoltaics is a patented name and the technology comes under technology used for power generation through floating solar panels.
The first flotovoltaics installation was carried out in 2007. Floating solar panels capable of producing around 100 megawatts (MW) of power was in operation by the beginning of 2017. Approximately 60% of the total installations were in Japan.
Energy generated from natural resources which are naturally replenished is categorized under renewable energy. Sunlight, wind, water and geothermal heat are major sources of renewable energy. Solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity etc are examples of renewable energy.
There has been a shift towards renewable energy sources from fossil fuels due to less impact on environment. Solar energy has been a major source of renewable energy. In this, the light and heat from sun is converted to electrical energy using a range of technologies including solar heating, photovoltaics and molten saltpower plants. The investment cost has been the major impediment in harnessing the full potential of the power of sun.
However, innovative technologies have been helping to reduce overall cost of production of solar energy. Flotovoltaics is one among such innovations. This method of energy production, which is still in early phases, is expected to gain more momentum in near future because of the cost advantages.
Floating solar systems offers numerous advantages over conventional solar power generation based on ground mounting method. In flotovoltaics, placement of solar panels is over waterbodies. In areas where land is scarce and costly, this method reduces the investment towards land cost. The investment in land becomes zero. At the same time, availble land can be used for other productive purposes. The efficiency of power generation improves due to the natural water cooling of the solar panels. The panels on water bodies reduce unwanted algae growth and water evaporation. Further, the uninterrupted light and heat from sun improves the efficiency of power production by 15-20%.
This method of generation power offers its own challenges too. The floating of panels has to automatically adjust to the level of water that varies throughout the year, especially in rainy season and summer season. The cost of setting up transmission infrastructure may also increase when the unit is located away from substation/ grid.