Australian-Made Floating Solar Technology Headed To California

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Originally published on RenewEconomy
by Sophie Vorrath

The company behind Australia’s first floating solar plant has sold its flagship Australian-made technology to the City of Holtville, in California, marking the first export of the world-leading renewable energy system.

Infratech Industries, a Sydney-based company established three years ago in Singapore and Australia, uses technology co-developed by a team of 15 engineers and academics from Flinders University’s Nano Science and Technology Department.

In April, the company completed the first installation of a $12 million, 4MW PV system in Jamestown, South Australia, to serve as its showcase project.

floating solar-2

The technology appealed to the agricultural region of Holtville – known as the “Winter Salad Bowl” of the US, for its production of more than 80 food crops – for its ability to save valuable agricultural space while reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

The vast bulk of the 1MW Holtville system – which includes 276 rafts, 3576 panels and 12 treatment pumps – will be will be manufactured in Australia.

“This is Australian technology, using Australian engineering to produce the bulk of the components of the rafts,” said Infratech CEO Rajesh Nellore.

“The expertise inherent in Australian manufacturing has been dormant for some time through no fault of its own, but the development and deployment of sustainable infrastructure allows us to tap into that world-class expertise once again,” he said.

“Australia, like Holtville, is an arid area subject to harsh climates and drought. Floating solar and other sustainable initiatives can ensure farmers have access to renewable power and clean water without using valuable land.

“Holtville and Jamestown are proof points of what is possible when people look to sustainable infrastructure initiatives to power their communities.”

The exported floating solar system will be installed at Holtville’s new water treatment facility, where it is expected to generate an estimated 20 per cent more power than a fixed land-based solar PV system.

floating solarAs well as generating the water plant’s power, the floating array will save water from evaporation, and improve its quality by reducing the need to use treatment chemicals.

The system does this by providing shade for the water, thus limiting the photosynthesis process that creates blue-green algae, while consequently keeping the surface of the water cool and further raising the quality.

“Installing Infratech’s floating solar system is the right move for Holtville, and further proves our progressive approach to infrastructure and the environment,” said James Predmore, Mayor for the City of Holtville. “This move puts us ahead of the rest of the US.”

“Our decision to use Infratech’s floating solar system means we are not losing valuable farmland to massive solar farms; we can use three existing ponds and save our soil for increasing our capacity to produce crops,” he said.

Another potential upside of the Infratech system is that it will be able to withstand earthquakes, with Holtville situated near the San Andreas Fault.

With the system able to float on water – and therefore about to shift on the surface in the instance of tremors – and purpose-built to withstand waves, Holtville is able to ensure the availability of its water supply and the energy needed to treat it during a crisis.“We’re in the desert, and we lose more than five feet of water a year to evaporation while typically only receiving around three inches of rain annually. Also, our main source of water, the Colorado River via the Hoover Dam, is currently in drought,” he said.

“Our residents use the water for drinking and irrigation, so this installation means the quality and taste of that water will improve while also ensuring we are on our way to meeting California’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.”

The system is expected to be fully installed and operational by mid-2016.


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11 thoughts on “Australian-Made Floating Solar Technology Headed To California

  • Would be nice to have an idea of the economics of this type of structure. Several solutions exist, they’re not the first by the way. Floating solar is an interesting opportunity as long as you don’t pay a fortune for it.

    • As far as I’ve seen in similar articles to this, the cost is similar to ground-mounted solar, since whilst manufacturing is slightly more, there is generally no ground to buy. Stick them on a reservoir that’s already there. I know that’s been done by UU in the North of England

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  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could build floating solar power plants in the sea as well as on lakes. Solar powered floating plants could be built on our coastlines. Japan already is doing this, due to their limited land available for land based solar power plants.

  • The article says the installation will generate 20% more power than a land based system. If all things are equal how is that possible?

    • Cooler temperatures? Some reflection off the water surface?

      • I am 100% certain that regularly cleaning the panel’s surface with already available water has tremendous advantages than the dusty panels on land.

        • That could be another reason for higher outputs. Likely a combination of reasons.

      • We’ve seen similar effects on Solar panels in Norway. Very cold temperatures combined with reflection from snow has made the solar panels produce somewhat more than expected. Perhaps using white/reflective roof materials would create this effect on roofs? White roof supposedly also makes cooler buildings and which will use less AC.

    • Actually, you get clues from the pictures. You should be able to rotate the whole panel arrays to track the sun and thus you optimize interception compared to the land based fixed position panels. mechanism is easy since the structure floats. see the circular frame… that’s the big clue.

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