Floating solar PV, or ‘floatovoltaics’, is set to move into the mainstream this year according to new market research.

Over 450 MW of floating PV installations are already deployed worldwide on dams, reservoirs, lakes and other bodies of water. In a new report on solar and energy storage trends, research firm IHS Markit said the sector can expect to move from niche applications towards “steady market uptake” over the course of 2018.

China, Japan and South Korea are currently the world leaders in floating PV, with China expected to consolidate its position at the head of the pack this year. The nation hosts the world’s largest such system, Sungrow Power’s 40 MW installation in Anhui province, and a 70 MW project and a 150 MW project are under construction and are expected to come online in Q1 of this year.

In addition, new markets are emerging in India, where the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) recently tendered for 100 MW of floating PV projects to be developed in Uttar Pradesh state, and The Netherlands, which plans to install 2.3 GW by 2023.

IHS Markit predicts that the coming rapid growth in market opportunities will increase the number of companies with floating solar initiatives and will give the current market leader, France’s Ciel et Terre, new competition.

Ciel et Terre currently has 93 MWp of floating solar installed worldwide, with a project pipeline of 197 MWp across Asia, Europe, Africa and North and Latin America.

However, the research firm warned that “many so-called floating PV projects being mounted on pillars are ground-mount projects in disguise”.

“Such misleading announcements risk distorting the market’s perception of floating PV,” IHS Markit said.

Pictured: Ciel et Terre floating PV installation, Akura Dam, Japan