On a Dutch lake out there floats a circular island with hundreds of solar panels.
This isn’t just another floating solar farm on lakes, reservoirs, or coastal areas. Its panels track the Sun to capture as many rays as possible, unlike the other floating solar farms.
Proteus, named after the ancient Greek sea deity, is one of the first to use floating solar panels and Sun-tracking equipment to maximize clean power production.
180 of these movable solar panels cover the island of Oostvoornse Meer, a lake in the southwest Netherlands, with 73 kilowatts of peak electricity (kWp). In a world quickly switching to renewable energy, this little facility may be expanded up to create vast quantities of clean power without taking up precious land, according to SolarisFloat, the Portuguese company that constructed Proteus.
Tracking technology and floating solar might boost power output, but there are other advantages. Scientists think floating solar may minimize water-threatening evaporation and deadly algae blooms. Floating solar arrays shade water to lower temperatures. This avoids poisonous blue-green algae blooms in warmer seas, which may cause eye and skin irritation, vomiting, and severe sickness or death in animals.
In dry regions, colder temperatures reduce water evaporation. In 2021, floating solar panels atop a reservoir in Jordan, one of the world’s driest nations, decreased evaporation by 42% and generated 425 MWh of power. Floating solar may have environmental drawbacks.
Strategies to increase solar panel energy output include tilting them to follow the Sun’s path in the sky, as budding sunflowers do. Tracking technology on certain land-based solar arrays increases power generation by continually adjusting the panels to face the Sun. SERIS study found that double-sided panels that follow the Sun might boost energy output by 35% and lower power costs by 16% compared to traditional systems. This efficiency enhancement will increase demand for solar panel monitoring technology by 16% each year between 2022 and 2030.
SolarisFloat designed Proteus as a pilot project to test this cutting-edge technology and see how it enhances sustainable energy. The prototype made them European Inventor Award finalists this year.
Revolution of Solar
Floating solar has an advantage in a world expanding solar arrays quickly, particularly in land-scarce nations. Conventional solar farms are criticized for taking up space that might be used to produce food to feed the world’s rising population or carbon-absorbing trees. According to Leiden University in The Netherlands, solar energy takes at least 40-50 times more area than coal facilities and 90-100 times more than gas.
Land-based solar and wind farms, particularly in species-rich regions, may affect biodiversity, according to conservationists.
Thus, using lakes and reservoirs to build sun-absorbing equipment frees up land. Japan and Singapore are investing extensively in floating solar farms since land is scarce or costly.
Sunlight, not heat, powers solar panels. They lose efficiency when heated. Heat stimulates the panel’s electrons, which convert solar energy into electricity, reducing the gap between the high energy and rest state and decreasing voltage and power generation.
Nuno Correia, director of composite materials at the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in Porto, who created the Proteus project, claims floating solar panels run more effectively and produce 15% more power due to their closeness to water.