Solar power is by far the most deployed and adopted renewable energy production today. The worldwide installed capacity has reached 227 GW in 2015 – according to the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power System Program’s (IEA PVPS) newly published Snapshot of Global Photovoltaic Markets 2015(1). While PV panels prices are drastically decreasing these last years the profitability in this business is getting lower and as a consequence many solar panel manufacturers have recently left the industry. Such a bleak perspective has lead to the emergence of innovative ideas in order to boost this industry while meeting other clients specific needs.
Floating solar Plants (FSP) is one of these new technologies which relative market was recently valued at $3.89 million in 2014(2). Driven by several innovative startups, the business growth is expected to meet a CAGR* of 116.1% over the period 2015 – 2020 according to the PSMarket research(3). The existing technology does not fit to marine environment constraints due to the high corrosion and sea events issues and hence, existing projects are installed in hydro plants, water reservoirs or lakes.
This article shows up the countries currently developing this technology, the major players (in the market) with their relative positioning and the current existing technologies.
From a technical point of view floating solar systems are mainly composed of 4 main parts with respectively different and own challenges.
A tracking system could be used in order to increase the panel load and hence boost the relative capacity factor.
Floating technology provides indeed tailored solutions to meet intrinsic issues, in comparison to the ground mounted solution, as well as extrinsic issues which such as implementation.
Overall, we can focus on two main intrinsic issues:
On the other hand, floating solar technology could provide with solutions to usual problems in reservoirs (extrinsic issues):
Based on these criteria and on a strategic level, two main potential market-entering categories could be defined:
In this case, a massive floating panels deployment is expected.
Many countries are actually interested in the Floating solar technology and are currently proactive in developing projects worldwide. Some countries, such as Taiwan give financial incentives specifically for floating projects which offers a FiT** of TWD ***4.94/kWh (US$ 0.157) largely higher than the one allocated to ground-mounted projects of TWD 4.547/kWh(4). Others have already a favorable politic strategy regarding floating projects such as Indian government who has already set floating solar installed capacity targets (5).
According the last scenarios described before, floating solar projects could be sorted in two main categories:
Major current and expected projects are listed on the map below. Floating solar projects are mostly located in Asia with almost 78% of the expected worldwide installed capacity.
(1) Early mass adopters (2) Niche markets (3) Mega Watt Peak
Figure 1: Asia shows high potential for mass FS market growth with 78% of expected worldwide installed capacity- Europe, North and Latin America still developing pilot farms and expected to be niche markets for this technology
This new technology is mainly developed by innovative startups. Among the market leaders today, 3 main players stand out from the crowd on the first stage:
* Logarithmic scale
Figure 2 : Ciel et Terre is leading the market with 35 projects worldwide and a dispersed strategy
* Compound Annual Growth Rate
** Feed in Tariff
*** Taiwan dollar
**** Méga Watt Peak