Floating Solar’s Emergence in the US and Its Asian Origins

From Asia to America: The Growing Appeal of Floating Solar Technology

D3Energy, a company specializing in floating solar technology, has unveiled its collaboration with Del-Co Water to introduce Ohio’s inaugural floating solar project. This initiative marks a novel approach to solar deployment in Ohio, emphasizing the conservation of the state’s land.

Del-Co Water, a water utility serving central Ohio, is taking steps to integrate solar energy into its operations. The 3.2 MW solar farm will be situated on a cooling pond at Del-Co’s water treatment facility.

Glenn Marzluf, CEO of Del-Co Water, shared, “Solar power plays a pivotal role in Del-Co Water’s strategic commitment to environmental sustainability. Floating solar allows us to implement a substantial solar installation without utilizing any of our valuable ground, which might be needed for future expansion. We are also excited about the potential reduction in algae growth due to decreased sunlight exposure.”

This project goes beyond floating solar and incorporates both rooftop and carport installations to maximize energy production. The floating array will make use of the Hydrelio floating system by Ciel & Terre, a company with floating systems deployed worldwide, totaling 1.5GW in operational or developmental capacity.

Upon completion, this project is expected to offset nearly 50% of Del-Co Water’s electricity consumption at its water treatment plant, resulting in an estimated annual cost savings of $400,000, as indicated by D3Energy. D3Energy has teamed up with Gardner Capital, a solar investor with ownership of more than 100MW of solar assets, to own and manage the system, providing power to Del-Co Water.

Construction is scheduled to commence in November, with materials already arriving on-site, and full grid connection anticipated in late spring 2024.

While floating solar is gaining traction in the United States, it has been a well-established practice in Asia for many years.

The core concept behind floating solar is straightforward: solar panels are affixed to floating platforms that rest on bodies of water, as opposed to occupying land that could otherwise be utilized for agriculture or construction. These panels are tightly sealed and serve as a cover, significantly reducing water evaporation—a particularly valuable feature in regions afflicted by drought, such as California. Additionally, the water helps maintain the panels’ temperature, enabling them to generate more electricity in comparison to their land-based counterparts, which experience reduced efficiency in high temperatures.

However, a notable obstacle remains the high initial costs. According to Bartle, floating solar typically incurs an upfront expense that is 10-15% greater than traditional land-based solar projects, though it offers long-term cost savings. Installation costs can escalate when dealing with deeper water, and the technology isn’t suitable for fast-moving water, open ocean conditions, or shorelines with substantial waves.

The world’s largest floating solar array to date is the 320 MW Dezhou Dingzhuang Floating Solar Farm, situated in Shandong, China. In contrast, North America’s largest floating solar installation, found at the Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant in Millburn, New Jersey, owned by New Jersey Resources Clean Energy Ventures, is comparatively modest at 8.9 MW. New Jersey Resources Clean Energy Ventures is known for its operation of utility-scale commercial and residential solar systems across the Northeast.

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