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Published on March 14th, 2015 | by James Ayre


Huge Floating Solar Project Being Developed In California — To Be Largest In US Once Completed

March 14th, 2015 by  

What will be, once completed, the largest floating solar photovoltaic (PV) project in the US is now under development in California by the company Pristine Sun, according to recent reports.

The project array — which will be situated on 6 wastewater ponds (filled with treated sewage) in Sonoma County — is currently slated to be completed in 2016, and will, once completed, provide enough electricity to power roughly 3,000 Californian homes. It will have a power output capacity of 12.5 megawatts.


Considering that it’s relatively hard to get access to well situated land (for solar) in Sonoma County, the choice of developing a floating solar PV project was a strategic one, according to the deputy chief engineer at the county’s Water Agency, Cordel Stillman.

“We know it’s hard to get big solar projects in Sonoma County. You get pushbacks on aesthetics and the taking of agricultural land. We took a look and said ‘Where else can we put solar?’ “

The ponds that’ll be home to the solar PV arrays are being leased from Sonoma County Water Agency for roughly $30,000 a year.

The CEO of Pristine Sun, Troy Helming, noted: “We consider these bodies of water an ‘underutilized asset’ or ‘un-utilized asset’ (from which) their owners can now enjoy a modest revenue stream by leasing the water surface rights to Pristine Sun, in order for us to sell clean energy to the local utilities.”


Climate Progress provides some background:

Floating solar — which typically involves installing solar panels on pontoons that rest on the surface of a body of water and is also called “floatovoltaics” — has been installed in California before. Far Niente, a Napa Valley wine producer, has a 1,000-panel floating solar installation on its winery’s irrigation pond. The array, coupled with 1,300 solar panels on the land next to the pond, provides enough yearly energy to offset the winery’s power usage. As the New York Times reported in 2011, the solar arrays are useful in other ways too: they can help prevent harmful algae growth and prevent evaporation from ponds.

Floating solar has already caught on in other parts of the world. Australia is starting construction on its first floating solar power plant this year, which will feature a solar array on a wastewater pond. France, too, is home to a large-scale floating solar array, and Japan has also begun taking floating solar seriously. Japan’s lack of space and desire to move away from nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster make it a prime spot for floating solar. It’s unsurprising, then, that the country is home to the world’s largest floating solar array.

If only in specific circumstances and environments, floating solar PV arrays do seem to be an interesting solution. I’ll be curious to see what gets developed, with regard to the approach, in the coming years.

We’ve been writing about floating solar power plants a lot as of late. Here are some of our recent articles on this topic:

First Floating Solar Power Plant To Be Tested In India (April 2013)

India Plans World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Project (50 MW) (July 2014)

Kyocera To Develop Japan’s Largest Floating Solar Power Plant (September 2014)

Yet Another Claim For World’s Largest Floating Solar Plant (November 2014)

Sunflower Floating Solar Power Plant In Korea (December 2014)

World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Plant Announced By Kyocera (December 2014)

Image Credit: SPG 
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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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