Call them Floatovoltaics: they could represent the future of solar energy. These photovoltaic systems are placed over floating platforms: the technology has existed for years but cutting-edge projects are under construction in various corners of the world . The one common denominator: an installation that uses water as a support instead of the ground and wins the problem of land use.
In Japan is under construction what will be the largest floating photovoltaic plant in the world. The platform, consisting of 51.000 panels, will cover an area of 180.000 square meters of water in the basin of the dam of Yakamura. The fact that the plant will be realized by exploiting the surface of a hydroelectric reservoir creates multiple advantages: on one side to minimize the evaporation of water and on the other side to cut the growth of algae. Furthermore, the photovoltaic panels achieve the highest yields, and therefore the maximum production, when they maintain quite low temperatures, characteristic guaranteed by constant contact with the water below.
There are also severals benefits in environmental terms: the installed platforms are completely recyclable and designed to withstand both corrosion and extreme weather events. The plant in Yakamura would be inaugurated a March 2018 and once fully operational will produce enough electricity to supply about 5000 Japanese houses needs. This will result in savings around 8200 tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere every year.
Europe tries to keep up, although with different rhythm. In London, at the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir, is under construction the largest floating photovoltaic installation on the continent. Covering an area equivalent to eight football fields, the plant will produce electricity for the annual needs of 1,800 English families. It is the first project of this kind to receive a European bank financing.
In Italy the first floating photovoltaic technology has been realized in Solarolo, in the province of Ravenna. Installed in 2008, the floating structure, with a size of about 25 meters in diameter, is inspired in the shape of lotus leaf and can be used in any water-bearing inner surface. The biomimicry of the system of Solarolo is not unique in the world: the emblematic cases are the Solar Lily Pad on river Clyde in Glasgow and the Sunflower Solar Power Plant in South Korea. The inspiration here was declined respectively in PV lily pads and sunflowers. Technology moves, designs photovoltaic panels on floating platforms and drives man to return to observe nature, to marvel for its solutions and to try to imitate them.
A journey back, a human colonization in reverse: from the earth back to the water to nourish the hope of a sustainable future.