While Australia boasts a huge percentage of rooftop solar installations across our sun-drenched country, we still lag behind the rest of the world in large-scale solar installations. The Brits seem to have no such problems — despite their general lack of sunny weather — with the construction of Europe's biggest floating solar panel project going ahead in the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir, London.
Image via Thames Water
The array will be as large as eight football pitches and is being floated on a formerly redundant stretch of water, with the final project set to cover a tenth of the reservoir's surface. With a total peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts, the installation will generate enough energy to power 1800 homes every year — though in this case the energy generated will be used to help power Thames Water's water treatment works.
This particular installation comes as a collaboration between Thames Water, Ennoviga Solar and Lightsource Renewable Energy. Lightsource, the installer, will oversee the deployment of more than 61,000 floats and 177 anchors, which will provide the base floating platform for the solar panels.
"We’re delighted to have begun work on another ambitious milestone project for Lightsource with our first floating solar installation," said Lightsource's CEO, Nick Boyle. "Over the last five years we’ve successfully completed ground and roof installations of all shapes and sizes, but this project has some obvious differences and has presented our team with a set of fresh challenges to overcome."
While this project will be the biggest in Europe, it is not the first of its kind, coming as part of Thames Water's goal to self-generate a third of its own energy by 2020. The company already has solar panels on 41 of its sites, and doesn't seem to be slowing down.
"Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment," said Thames Water's energy manager, Angus Berry.
Thames Water generated a total of 12.5 per cent of its own energy requirements in 2014-2015, and this installation will only push it closer to its 33 per cent target in the next few years.