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The Year of the Floating Solar is here, as countries look to reservoirs, treatment plants and other built infrastructure to develop new solar energy sites.

Solar Energy

New Utility-Scale Floating Solar Grants Pair US & Israeli Companies

The Year of the Floating Solar is here, as countries look to reservoirs, treatment plants and other built infrastructure to develop new solar energy sites.

The Year of the Floating Solar is chugging right along, the latest development being a total of $1.8 million in Energy Department funding for the development of two floating solar systems. The equal grants of $900,000 each will go to a pairing of San Francisco’s Pristine Sun with Jerusalem-based Solaris Synergy, and Global Solar Energy, Inc. of Arizona with Haogenplast Ltd., a project of Kibbutz Haogen.

We are calling this the Year of the Floating Solar because the technology has matured to the point where this once-exotic site selection is rapidly becoming commonplace, with major new projects on the way in Brazil and India, among other places.

floating solar israel USA

Why Floating Solar?

Floating solar is coming into its own because it offers several different sustainability twofers. One major advantage is that, while the solar panels help shade the water and prevent excess evaporation, the water also helps cool the solar panels and provides a relatively dust-free environment.

Floating solar systems can also piggyback on other major built infrastructure, for example drinking water reservoirs, hydropower dams, and wastewater treatment plants, so that available unbuilt land can be reserved for agriculture, nature conservation, or other uses. The Global Solar Energy project, for example, is specifically aimed at double-purposing reservoirs.

The drinking water/wastewater angle is especially important because water systems involve tremendous amounts of energy, and onsite solar provides a pathway toward carbon-free water in addition to conserving water in arid regions such as Israel, Arizona, and parts of California.



 

Two Grants For Floating Solar

The two new floating solar grants are part of a new $5.1 million, six-project round of matching grants under the BIRD Energy program, which covers US-Israel partnerships between private companies, or between a company in one country and a research institution in the other. Eligible projects have to demonstrate technology likely to commercialize, and to be beneficial to both the US and Israel.

Speaking of mutual benefits, if a project does commercialize successfully, the grantee is obligated to pay back the grant plus half again. Here’s the rundown on the two floating solar projects from the Energy Department:

Haogenplast Ltd. (Kibbutz Haogen, Israel) and Global Solar Energy, Inc. (Tucson, AZ), $900,000, will develop floating PV technology systems to reduce the cost of solar energy production over water reservoirs. Floating PV systems may be attractive options in areas with a shortage of available land for development and can reduce the amount of evaporation from open reservoirs.

[snip]

Solaris Synergy (Jerusalem, Israel) and Pristine Sun LLC (San Francisco, CA), $900,000, will collaborate on a utility scale, low-cost floating photovoltaic solar energy system for deployment on water.

Big Bucks For Nuclear, But Solar Comes On Strong

Earlier this week we noticed a nuclear energy theme underneath that splashy launch of the new megabucks “clean energy” investor group Breakthrough Energy Coalition, showcased at this week’s COP21 Paris climate talks. We’re already getting notes back from the non-billionaire business community that small business is being overlooked at COP21, so let’s take a closer look at the four companies receiving those BIRD grants.

If Pristine Sun sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of the company’s floating solar project now underway in California, which involves solar panels swimming atop Sonoma County’s wastewater treatment facility. In a press release celebrating its $900,000 award, Pristine Sun points out that this will be the largest floating solar project in the US.

The Pristine/Solaris collaboration is certainly ready for its closeup, because Solaris has already completed several installations of its floating solar system in Israel. Here’s a rundown on the specs:

  • The use of a unique design, many standard off-the-shelf elements for construction and inexpensive materials leads to lower Total Cost of Ownership.
  • Use of standard PV modules ensuring low cost and high reliability over a time.
  • A unique, patented design provides self-regulation of panel angle under varying wind loads, allowing the installation of the system in regions of very high wind speed, even up to hurricane levels!
  • The system is agnostic as to water depth and unaffected by changes in water level.
  • The structure has a very low physical profile providing a minimal visual impact – a key environmental consideration.
  • The construction materials are all environmentally friendly and safe for use in the water and there is no leaching of any chemicals into the water.
  • Modularity of construction makes the system easily scalable and cost effective over a large range of installations providing flexibility and speed of deployment.
  • The open structure of the system ensures adequate aeration of the water as well as natural light penetration and presents no hazard to underwater life.

The pairing of Haogenplast with Global Solar is an interesting one, because at first glance neither of the companies seems to have a background in floating solar development. Haogenplast is not a solar company per se but it has a long history in vinyl and acrylics manufacturing, and one of its main focuses is waterproofing.

Global Solar is better known for its flexible and portable solar applications. The company has also been dipping a toe into building integrated solar and it has been looking around for other interesting new applications, so there’s that.

The real potential becomes more obvious when you consider that Global Solar was acquired a couple of years ago by the China-based global renewable energy firm Hanergy, which has hydropower among its other interests, so it looks like Hanergy could provide a ready-made market for the Global Solar/Haogenplast collaboration.

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Image (screenshot) via Solaris Synergy.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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