Hope Floats: Solar Array Finds Home On California Wastewater Pond

Hope Floats: Solar Array Finds Home On California Wastewater Pond

October 15, 2018

While some engineers are working on building futuristic floating cities, others have already mastered the art of constructing floating solar arrays.

In China, Japan, Brazil, and Korea, solar arrays have been placed onto otherwise unused bodies of water. For example, a floating solar farm — the size of 160 American football fields — currently rests atop of flooded coal mine in Huainan, China. And now, according to Inverse, floating solar arrays have finally arrived in the United States.

In Kelseyville, California, a 720-panel system that lies on top of a wastewater treatment pond was completed in September. It’s expected to produce 415 kilowatt-hours worth of electricity for the state, which has made a legislative promise to operate on only carbon-free electricity by 2045.

Placing green-energy-producing materials on water solves a huge obstacle for solar power enthusiasts: finding a space big enough to hold a massive number of panels so that they can produce more electricity faster.

“You don’t think about how much water surface area there is until you look for it,” Chris Bartle, business development manager of Ciel & Terre, the company that built the Kelseyville solar array, told Inverse.

Of course, some worry that the arrays may harm the water underneath it, but early research has found this fear is unfounded. The floating arrays seem to actually protect the water by reducing evaporation, controlling algae growth and reducing water movement to minimize bank erosion.

“Municipal water districts, wineries, farms, and others want to adopt solar but they don’t want to commit land that could be used for other purposes,” Eva Pauly-Bowles, representative director for Ciel & Terre, said in a press release. “Installing floating solar systems gives them ready access to green energy while helping them manage their water resources.”

Expect to see more floating solar arrays soon. Ciel & Terre has four more projects in the work, including a 4.4 MW installation in New Jersey.

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