In Focus: Floating Solar Platforms 0

Commercial and residential solar installations represent some of the greatest potential for solar power, but a variety of other techniques have emerged that similarly make use of its unique advantages. One of the more interesting prospects for solar power actually is not any kind of rooftop solar installation or concentrating mirror, but a floating platform.

One of the great difficulties of solar power, among many other kinds of renewable power, is that of intermittency in which solar power systems do not create a consistent and predictable amount of electricity. Solar and wind, the two most prominent renewable sources, both have difficulty overcoming this issue at times.

One idea to help limit the impact of intermittency, while simultaneously reducing the amount of land dedicated to power generation, is to attach solar panels and potentially wind turbines to floating platforms with so -called wave power generators. These generators make use of the rhythmic motion of the waves, produced by the wind out at sea, transforming it into power through a variety of different mechanisms ranging from turbines to pumps.

Using this relatively consistent source of renewable electricity, some hope that these platforms could produce a comparatively stable amount of power, with the variations between the three different power sources resulting in a steady net output.

The New York Times reports that some companies have already begun to place solar installations on bodies of water, though the Times notes that so far this has largely been limited to fresh water bodies like the California aqueduct. Power Engineering reports that a growing number of countries and companies have begun to tackle the more difficult challenge of locating solar power systems on the ocean, surrounded by constant salt sprays and the constant rocking of the waves. Science Daily reports that one Israeli company has even found a means of utilizing the ocean as a heat sink for its solar panels, helping increase the efficiency of its crystalline-silicon solar cells, which often face the challenge of maximizing solar energy while preventing the system from overheating.

Attempts at combining the technologies have emerged as ready products, however. CleanTechnica reports that one London-based engineer has designed a net-like system with small, low-cost pods incorporating both solar panels and a displacement-based wave power generator. Phil Pauley, the system’s designer, notes that the solar systems can even convert some sunlight reflected back from the water. Though these systems might matter more to utilities than residential consumers, the potential for the expanded of solar power should improve prospects for the industry as a whole. Solar Ener

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