Floating houses are not a new concept and can be found all over the world. Growing up surrounded by water I knew a family (of SIX!) that lived in a houseboat. It was normal. We have them all over Lake Union in Seattle.
But what I haven’t seen a lot of in the U.S. is floating PV (FPV). In 2008 an FPV array was installed in Napa but as of 2017, the U.S. only had seven “operational” floating solar arrays. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory believes there are “more than 24,000 human-made bodies of water throughout the country with the potential of generating 10% of the nation’s electricity using FPV.”
Other reports state that the demand for this product will grow steadily by an average of 22 percent from now through 2024. By the end of this year (2019) there will be about 340 floating solar installations completed globally in 35 countries (mostly in Asia). The market is primarily driven by countries with “high land costs, limited land availability, or ambitious renewable energy targets.”
As with anything, there are pros and cons to FPV.
One of the most obvious pros is that FPV doesn’t take up valuable land that can be extremely costly to buy and develop. If you’re paying top price for land you likely don’t want to use a large portion of it for a solar array. Floating solar also provides shade on the surface of water which decreases evaporation and water loss in hot months while the water cools the panels, creating better efficiency.
The cons include FPV not being a great option for individual households (more suited for larger-scale projects) and the current cost to install, resulting from the need for specialized equipment.
As FPV is more widely adopted most experts believe the install costs will drop exponentially.
As more projects are installed we’ll obviously obtain better data. And with better data it will become easier to implement improvements that need to be made to drive the cost down. And once the cost starts to drop, new markets should open up for FPV - including sea-based PV projects. Keep watching...it will be interesting to watch this technology and to see if it “floats”.