The gap between the cost of land-based solar and floating solar has narrowed, and – over the life of a project – floating solar and land-based solar are close to reaching price parity. Floating solar may have slightly higher capital costs, but it has lower operation and management (O&M) costs, no land costs and the increased efficiency of the panels. Also, the panels stay cleaner because there are minimal dust or silt issues.
Currently, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) are conducting a study to quantify the impacts and benefits of these floating systems, and one of the main points that they are examining is the cooling effect produced by the fact that floating solar panels are mounted over water. Similar studies conducted in Asia have shown that the increased efficiency ranged anywhere from 10% to 20%.
Floating solar arrays can also be deployed as an alternative to land-based solar farms in areas were land is in short supply or in dry places where it can be installed at man-made reservoirs to help mitigate evaporation, he said. Two years ago, NREL estimated that installing floating solar photovoltaics on the more than 24,000 man-made U.S. reservoirs could generate about 10% of the nation’s annual electricity production.