Floating Solar Systems Provide Power, Environmental Benefits

Water and wastewater utilities can benefit from new floating solar power systems offered by SPG Solar. The company's Floatovoltaics® technology is a hybrid solar power system built on water. By installing solar panels floating on lakes, lagoons or ponds, the panels are naturally cooled, resulting in improved power production. In turn, the solar panels shade the water, limiting algae growth and helping reduce evaporation.

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Water and wastewater utilities can benefit from new floating solar power systems offered by SPG Solar. The company’s Floatovoltaics® technology is a hybrid solar power system built on water. By installing solar panels floating on lakes, lagoons or ponds, the panels are naturally cooled, resulting in improved power production. In turn, the solar panels shade the water, limiting algae growth and helping reduce evaporation.

With electricity costs increasing nearly 22% in the past five years and even higher and more volatile prices projected, water agencies face a daunting challenge in keeping costs down for ratepayers, while at the same time finding the resources to invest in critical infrastructure projects.

The good news is that water facilities in several states are taking control of their energy costs by turning to solar photovoltaic (PV) power. The even better news is that, according to Michael Liebreich chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the cost of large solar system projects will fall by 50% by 2020. Consumers, businesses and municipalities are putting their assets to work in generating electricity with rooftop, carport and land-based solar installations.

As an example, since 2007, Massachusetts has been aggressively rolling out solar projects and energy efficiency measures at 14 water and wastewater facilities across the state in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of the energy used by water treatment facilities. Through this program, $3.7 million of annual energy savings is anticipated through energy efficiencies and on-site energy power generation.

In another case, the Vallecitos Water District (VWD), serving over 80,000 resident of North San Diego County, CA, with water, wastewater and reclamation services, turned to SPG Solar to install a solar carport system, shading the fleet and employee parking lot. Utility rebates paid for nearly 43% of the cost of the solar PV system and the system offsets roughly 90% of VWD’s annual electricity onsite.

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Floating solar systems can reduce evaporation and shade the water, slowing algae growth.

Floating Solar Islands

In addition to solar on land, SPG Solar floats solar power systems on water. The company’s Floatovoltaics® technology means that, “Water agencies and wastewater treatment plants can now take a holistic approach to their solar solutions,” said SPG Solar CEO and President Chris Robine. “A hybrid solar power system built on water and land not only conserves land space but provides water and environmental benefits while generating clean, renewable and more affordable electricity.”

Water agencies can look to another provider of liquid sustenance wineries for an example of putting water assets to work to reduce energy costs. At a Far Niente winery in California’s Napa County, a combined 477 kilowatt land and floating solar system has been running successfully for the last three plus years on a retention pond.

“We were looking for a creative solution to install solar but not have to take up valuable vineyard land. SPG Solar Floatovoltaics® provided us the opportunity to offset 100% of our electricity needs and requires minimal maintenance,” said Larry Maguire, chief executive of Far Niente winery.

In addition to power generation, the system has helped significantly reduce algae growth and evaporation in the retention pond.

SPG’s floating solar power system is designed for installations on fresh water surfaces, ranging from ponds and lakes to reservoirs and water storage ponds. By floating solar on one square acre of water in California, 500,000 kWh of renewable energy can be produced.

The proprietary system mounts solar panels on a racking system, floating on pontoons and secured by a mooring system. For durability and longevity, the systems are engineered to keep all metallic components above water, leaving only closed HDPE plastic floats in contact with the water. The floats have been approved for use in drinking water reservoirs. The floating system is engineered to withstand 85 mph winds and change in water levels.

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At a winery in California’s Napa County, a combined 477 kilowatt land and floating solar system has been running successfully for the last three plus years on a retention pond.

By installing solar panels over a pond, the panels are naturally cooled, resulting in improved power production performance. The cooler environment also reduces stress on the system, extending the system’s lifespan.

Floating solar is cost competitive with roof and ground-based single-axis tracking solar systems and uses the same commercially available solar panels. Similar to land-based solar, the floating installations qualify for federal and local grant and incentive programs.

Aside from generating power, the systems also provide other environmental benefits. As an example, the SPG system shades the water and can reduce evaporation by up to 70%. A 3-acre storage pond covered with solar panels could save over 4 million gallons of water each year.

The systems can also improve water quality. As water bodies are exposed to the sun, photosynthesis promotes growth of organic matter, including algae. By shading the water, algae growth is reduced, minimizing the associated treatment and labor costs.

For more information on SPG Solar and its floating solar systems, visit www.spgsolar.com.

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