Floating solar

A solution designed to optimise space and electricity production.

France has set itself ambitious targets for renewable energy, including solar power. The aim is to achieve 33% of electricity production from renewable sources by 2030. The development of floating photovoltaic systems in France is fully in line with these targets, with a rise from 16 GW in 2022 to around 55/60 GW by 2030, and a desired minimum of 75 GW of installed capacity by 2035.

These targets are based on reality. As one of the sunniest countries in Europe, France has great potential for solar energy. However, photovoltaics accounted for just 4.7% of electricity production in the first 3 quarters of 2022, compared to over 7% in Italy and Germany.

How does floating solar power work?

Floating photovoltaics is a technology that involves installing photovoltaic solar panels on floating structures, generally on bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs or tanks. 

  • Utilisation of available spaces that are not being used for other purposes, such as artificial bodies of water. This avoids converting natural areas for the installation of ground-mounted solar panels.

  • Reduction of water evaporation from reservoirs, which is beneficial in regions affected by water stress.

  • Higher yields than terrestrial solar installations. The water acts as a natural coolant and prevents the panels from overheating. This improves their efficiency and productivity.

Floating solar panels are similar to conventional solar panels. They convert sunlight into electricity using the photovoltaic effect.

The electricity produced can be used locally to power buildings and infrastructure or be fed into the electricity grid.

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Zoom: the PV2Float project

RWE, Fraunhofer Institute ISE and the University of Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) are actively developing floating photovoltaic technology. As part of the PV2Float research project, the partners are testing several floating photovoltaic systems with different structures under real-life conditions over a three-year period.

Various designs for the support structure and innovative anchoring systems are competing.

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In densely populated areas where energy demand is high, floating photovoltaic technology could be a decisive advantage for the development of renewable energies. In Europe, and particularly in Germany, there are many artificial water bodies that meet the technological requirements for floating photovoltaics. According to a study by Fraunhofer ISE, 500 lakes located on former open-cast mining sites alone have the potential for developing several gigawatts of installed capacity.

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