Google’s First Floating Solar Project
Google will build a floating solar farm above fishing ponds in Taiwan, in the company’s first foray into Asia’s renewable energy market. The company will work with Diode Ventures, Taiyen Green Energy, J&V Energy and New Green Power to build the 10MW facility.
Floating solar farms have become popular in the Asia-Pacific regions because they can be built over water, negating the need for large tracts of costly land. Japan tops the world’s installations of floating solar; in China, the world’s largest floating solar farm was built last year over a lake that used to be a coal mine.
While floating solar farms tend to be floated directly on the water via pontoons, Google is considering a canopy system which would see the panels installed on poles, suspending the structures over the water. The canopies would provide shade to the ponds, reducing evaporation – a concern for areas suffering from drought – and could also improve fishing yields while reducing algae growth.
Google recently became the first company to make a purchase under the Taiwan Electricity Act. The project is expected to be completed in 2020.
The World Bank estimates a global potential of 400 gigawatts for the floating solar market. While the US lags behind the Asia-Pacific region, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said in 2018 that as much as 10% of US energy supply could eventually be met with floating solar projects.
The capacity for floating solar is soaring: in 2018, total installed capacity was at 1.1 gigawatts, more than 100 times the capacity in 2014 of just 10 megawatts, according to a World Bank report published last year.
In addition to avoiding land acquisition traditionally associated with solar installations, floating solar has the benefit, in some cases, of allowing for power generation to be sited much closer to areas where demand for electricity is high, according to the World Bank.