floating solar PV
Image credit: RWE

A new partnership has been formed, PV2Float, to collect and analyse data on the effectiveness of floating solar PV, based on further development of floating solar PV designs and systems.

The partnership was formed between utility RWE Renewables, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU).

Under the PV2Float pilot, the three parties are leveraging funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to analyse the technical requirements, economic efficiency, acceptance and ecological effects of floating solar PV.

The three-year project will demonstrate how utilities can expand their renewable energy portfolio without taking up land and the best designs for resilient floating solar PV systems. Several floating PV systems with different structure designs will be tested.

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The Fraunhofer ISE states that Germany has the potential to ensure a secure energy supply by deploying floating solar PV, especially in the 500 open pit lakes leftover from lignite open cast mining. These open pit lakes have the potential to generate gigawatt solar PV capacity if used, hence the need to explore the construction of generation systems in areas such as Lusatia in the east of Germany.

In addition to selecting the location, the project partner RWE will carry out a comprehensive potential analysis of the German and international market for floating PV.

The demonstration PV plant is to be designed and built together with Volta Solar. Four floating PV installations and a reference installation on land with a total power of around 150 KW are planned. Heckert Solar, a solar module manufacturer in Chemnitz, will support the project with innovative PV module concepts. VDE Renewables is evaluating the developed power plant concepts to ensure that they comply with standards and electrical safety. They will also inspect the plants after construction. 

Fraunhofer ISE will investigate the regulatory framework for floating PV plants and is also developing a procedure for the participation of local stakeholders. Additionally, the institute will perform durability tests on the individual system components, further developing PV modules as well as simulation models on energy yield, adapting them to meet the particular requirements of floating applications, where necessary. The researchers at Fraunhofer ISE will also investigate the economic viability of floating PV.

The aquatic ecology monitoring is the responsibility of BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg and the Institut für Wasser und Boden Dr Uhlmann in Dresden.

Thorsten Miltkau, senior manager of Solar Power at RWE Renewables, said: “We see great potential for floating PV worldwide. With this research project, we want to deepen our knowledge of the technical possibilities of floating PV systems, such as scalability and energy yield, and transfer the findings to commercial projects.”

RWE Renewables is currently deploying a floating solar PV project in the Netherlands.

Stefan Wieland, project head at Fraunhofer ISE, adds: “Bodies of water put special demands on the design, material, environmental compatibility and operational management of floating PV power plants. In the project, these aspects are investigated for large floating PV plants.”