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Monster Machines: India's Building A Huge Floating Solar Farm

India's Building a Huge Floating Solar Farm (This Is Just the Start)

Solar power is quickly coming into its own, growing some 35 per cent worldwide last year to a total installed capacity of 136,697 MW. It’s going to get a nice boost from India, which hopes to float a similar 50MW plant — on a 1.27 million square metre floating platform — by the end of this year.

The Kagoshima Nanatsujima plant consists of some 290,000 solar panels arrayed just off the coast of Kagoshima City, and will generate just north of 70 MW of power annually. That’s enough to power more than 22,000 local homes and still leave leftover juice to feed back into the national grid. With its completion earlier this year, the Kagoshima plant is now the single largest solar installation in all of Japan.

India actually faces a similar energy situation to Japan’s. Both nations have precious little territory to install these huge arrays. It’s not like either nation has a baking hot wasteland in which to install these plants like the US does (I’m looking at you, Arizona). India, which has already begun installing 10MW solar plants atop the country’s numerous canals, has begun looking to its waters instead.

“There are large stretches of water bodies in Kerala which NHPC [a local energy company] wants to harness for solar power. This floating solar power technology was developed by the Renewable Energy College and has been implemented in the city. The first plant — a pilot project — is scheduled to be commissioned in October this year. NHPC had contacted us for offering technical know-how and installation assistance for their proposed 50-mw plant,” said SP Gon Choudhury, chairman of the Renewable Energy College. “Each station would require around 3000 square feet of space to generate 20 kilo watt of power. There are many water bodies that could be used for this,” he continued.

Currently, land earmarked for solar development in India is rapidly increasing in value with prices jumping around 10 to 20 per cent per parcel. By building out this capacity over water, government and energy company developers can save both cash and valuable real estate.

And there’s reportedly very little environmental impact as well. “The ecology of the water body is not likely to be affected much and it will also reduce evaporation, thus helping preserve water levels during extreme summer. Solar panels installed on land, face reduction of yield as the ground heats up. When such panels are installed on a floating platform, the heating problem is solved to a great extent,” said Choudhury. This isn’t an ideal solution, it’s not as though we can go and cover the world’s oceans with photovoltaic cells, but it’s certainly a solid intermediary step until we get those space-based solar farms up and running. [Inhabitat - Cleantechnica - SMA - Economic Times]