Floating solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions, which make use of a flotation system on which the PV modules are attached, addresses the shortage of reasonably priced land, as well as the need to reduce the rate of evaporation from precious freshwater reservoirs, such as dams or lakes, Black & Veatch sub-Saharan Africa business development director Webb Meko says.
Floating solar PV, he pointed out in an interview with Engineering News Online, should be viewed as an evolutionary application, particularly in instances where there is a shortage of suitable land to install a land-based PV system.
A secondary benefit, he highlighted, is the reduction in the evaporation rate of fresh water resources. “For example, a 1 MW floatovoltaic system, covering a 3- to 4-acre area of water, could reduce losses owing to evaporation by up to 70%, saving between 15 Mℓ and 18 Mℓ of water a year.
“[This] will be a good solution to consider, since South Africa is a semi-arid country and has had its own challenges with droughts in recent years,” Meko said.
Meanwhile, declining prices in lithium-ion and flow storage technologies are improving financial models of solar PV projects that also use battery storage systems.
He explained that this, in turn, is increasing the number of solar PV projects with battery storage, which are able to supply energy to the end-users during peak demand periods in the morning and evening when system productivity lags.
However, in order to ensure successful implementation, Meko suggested that system pricing and financial models must be done to ensure end-users receive the full benefits of a solar PV investment.
“A comprehensive feasibility study must be performed to cover the various project pricing and financing aspects in detail. Importantly, the total cost of ownership, and not only the initial capital cost, should be factored in to make the project more attractive to investors,” he said.
Additionally, Meko pointed out that successful solar PV and energy project implementation will influence the market demand and direction by optimizing output and reducing variability, improving the overall bankability of renewable energy projects.
“The potential market shift energy storage could [induce] has grabbed the attention of utilities around the world. Many utilities are beginning to embrace different operating models to continue to grow their businesses in a continuously changing market environment in which power is generated and consumed differently,” he noted.
Flexible regulatory frameworks need to be in place to make the energy sector both competitive and fair, Meko concluded.