You usually find solar panels mounted on top of carports, rooftops and fields but in the vineyards of Northern California, solar panels are found moored on irrigation ponds. Wineries want to go solar in this part of the state but they don’t want to pull out the vines.
SPG Solar of Novato, Sunengy of Australia, and Solaris Synergy of Israel are some of the companies that are providing solar solutions for hydroelectric reservoirs, canals, and agricultural and mining ponds. It might seem to be a small market in the United States but it has lots of possibility in the global scale. At present, solar panel aqua farms have attracted several municipal water agencies in the United States, mining companies and farmers.
Developing countries that experience electricity shortages but are rich with water resources and sunlight can benefit from this type of solar power system. According to SPG Solar, they are approached by potential customers from Australia, India, and the Middle East. When land is precious but scarce then this type of solar power can be utilized so that it would not take up resources that could be used in mining or farming.
Sunengy, which is based in Australia, has already signed with Tata Power to construct a small solar project on a hydroelectric reservoir. Tata Power is India’s biggest private utility company. Sunengy has also planned to place a solar array on a reservoir in France as a test project for French utility EDF.
This type of solar power system is dubbed as Floatovoltaics. The company was the one that installed the 994 solar panels on the pond at the Far Niente Winery found in the heart of Napa Valley. This system is capable of generating 400 kilowatts and was started in 2007. During the last four years the company managed to develop a system that’s competitive in pricing to the typical ground mounted system.
Standard photovoltaic panels are used for the said system and are positioned at an eight degree angle on metal lattice that were fitted to pontoons and anchored to the surface of the water by tie lines to buoys. These are made to withstand waves and wind. The array will then be hooked to a transmission line via a cable placed under the pond bed. The cooling effect of the water increased production by 1 percent when compared to a ground mounted system.
Environmental engineers that evaluated the Floatovoltaic technology came to the conclusion that water evaporation under the floating arrays decreased by at least 70 percent. The solar panels also limited the growth of algae underneath by blocking sunlight that is required for algae to grow.