When it comes to collecting the sun’s rays, we’ve placed solar panels almost everywhere – on rooftops, open farmland, and even on moving vehicles – and now we’re trying to take solar out to sea. Floating solar panels on the ocean could have a huge impact across the world; but of course, the salty sea comes with its own set of challenges.
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The Story of Solar and Water
- 2008 – The first-ever floating solar panels are set up on an irrigation pond at a California winery.
- 2010 – The “Suntech-Gusosheng Solarsailor” ferry uses photovoltaic (solar-powered) “sails” to carry passengers around the Huangpu River in Shanghai.
- 2012 – The “TÛRANOR PlanetSolar” becomes the first boat to sail around the world using only solar power.
- 2014 – Kyocera builds a floating solar power plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan.
- Today – SolAqua in Malta is working on a project to research and test the feasibility of a solar farm at sea.
Benefits of Using Solar Power on the Ocean
- Oceans cover 70% of earth’s surface, which would provide solar power opportunities for countries with limited land area.
- Solar farms on the ocean would leave more precious acres of land available for farming and other useful purposes.
- Solar panels would convert energy more efficiently on the ocean, because bodies of water stay at cooler temperatures than solid land.
- Floating solar panels cast shade over the water they sit on, reducing evaporation and slowing algae growth.
Challenges of Taking Solar Power to the Sea
- Research is still being done to see whether salt that dries onto the panels (from the salty seawater) will affect their functionality.
- Salt water can potentially corrode the solar panels, damaging their ability to convert energy.
- We are still testing the sea-worthiness of these floating panels, to determine whether they can withstand the fluctuations of the ocean.
- We don’t know yet how expensive these ocean solar plants would be to maintain.