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Ciel et Terre Turns To PPA For California’s Largest Floating Solar System

French floating solar specialist Ciel et Terre has begun installation of 1.78 megawatt floatovoltaic technology system at what it calls the largest floating solar system in California. To finance this project, the company has utilized a 25-year power purchase agreement for the first time, providing a lifetime savings of $4 million for the Town of Windsor.

French floating solar specialist Ciel et Terre has begun installation of 1.78 megawatt floatovoltaic technology system at what it calls the largest floating solar system in California. To finance this project, the company has utilized a 25-year power purchase agreement for the first time, providing a lifetime savings of $4 million for the Town of Windsor.

The company turned to a private investor to monetize the tax credit the facility will earn, since the town can not utilize the credit. Under the contract, while the investor and Ciel et Terre could disassemble and move the array at the end of the 25-year PPA, it is likely that a buyout agreement will keep the system in location. Ciel et Terre typically sells floating solar facilities to private sector clients, but expects to develop more PPAs with municipalities, counties and state entities.

The project is being installed on a wastewater pond operated by the Windsor Wastewater Reclamation Facility, and will power a variety of Town facilities, providing 90% of their water reclamation system needs. The Town also is in the process of installing EV charging stations that will be powered by the floating array.

Ciel et Terre Starts California’s largest floating solar array. Source: Charles Thurston

The Town began looking at floating solar for its wastewater facility several years ago, at the same time the Sonoma County wastewater authority began contracting for a floating array. While the county project, developed by a different company, floundered, the Windsor project moved ahead with Ciel et Terre, notes one Town source.

The Ciel et Terre solar installation will consist of 4,959 (360W) high-output solar panels mounted on the company’s patented Hydrelio floating solar racking system. The system also will generate power for the Public Works Corporation Yard, and the Geysers pump station, while saving about 30% of the electricity cost based on the facilities’ existing grid service. The array will be floated in the pond and tethered to the shore, making it resistant to wind and seismic loads.

“By entering into a PPA, the Town can substantially reduce its energy overhead without any investment,” said Eva Pauly-Bowles, the Representative Director for Ciel & Terre USA. “Floating solar is becoming an attractive energy alternative for municipalities seeking to reduce operating costs and preserve valuable land for other developments.”

“Our water reclamation and corporation yard facilities currently account for 40 percent of the Town’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Toni Bertolero, Town of Windsor Public Works Director. “Installation of this new floating solar array will reduce our reliance on energy-polluting sources by an estimated 350 metric tons of CO2 per year, a significant step to achieve our Climate Action Plan emission reduction goals.”

The floating solar project will cover only 22% of the available water surface area of the pond. It will have no impact on the biology of the pond and will reduce water loss from evaporation and inhibit algae growth. The state-of-the-art floating solar design can be expanded for extra capacity and will not affect plant operations while it is being installed.

Ciel & Terre is partnering with local union contractor, Collins Electrical Company, for installation. “Installing a Ciel et Terre floating solar system is like assembling a giant Lego structure. The floating frame snaps together and most of the assembly is done on shore so it is safe and relatively easy,” said Craig Gini, Vice President and Renewables General Manager for Collins Electrical Company Inc. “Floating solar is an excellent alternative to conventional solar arrays and its simpler and faster to install. We expect more of our California customers will be installing floating solar systems in the coming months.”

Using man-made bodies of water to host floating solar systems provides more efficient energy production due to its cooling effect on the system, while eliminating the need to use expensive real estate. The floating array also reduces water movement to minimize erosion and reduce evaporation. 

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) estimates that floating solar systems could meet 10% of the United States electricity needs.

Established in 2006 as a renewable Independent Power Producer (IPP), Ciel & Terre has been fully devoted to floating solar PV since 2011. The company pioneered Hydrelio, the first specific and industrialized system to make solar panels float on water, with criteria such as cost-effectiveness, safety, longevity, resistance to winds and waves, simplicity, drinking water compliance, and optimized electrical yield. 

Ciel & Terre has floating solar installations in Japan, Korea, China, UK, France, Germany, Netherland, Portugal, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Panama, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Italy, and Taiwan, as well as the United States. The company has its United States headquarters in Petaluma, California.


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Written By

Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

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