Floating photovoltaic is quite a niche market compared to mainstream or ground-mounted PV module installation. While it is considered as the third wave of expanding the solar energy market. This segment of the solar energy market has become so popular recently that the competition for building and commissioning larger and larger floating photovoltaic power plants is so serious. In this article, large floating photovoltaic plants in leading countries are introduced, and go through some of the details of them.
What is FPV & What types of FPV installations exist?
Floating Photovoltaics (FPV) is a photovoltaics (PV) based energy generation approach on the water surface . This type of renewable energy technology has gained popularity due to its advantages over the ground-based PV installation, including 
- No need for land (resolving land scarcity and multi-stakeholder issues)
- Less dust and soiling effect
- Higher performance due to the cooling effect of water
- Lowering water evaporation
- Less shading and surrounding obstacles.
FPV technology types could vary based on installation locations between
- Installation on inland natural / artificial waters (lakes, reservoirs, irrigation ponds, wastewater treatment plants, lagoons, wineries, fish farms, dams, canals)
- Offshore or near-shore installations .
History of FPV
In 2007, the first and pilot FPV project with 20kW capacity was installed in Aichi, Japan [1-3]. But the first commercial installation of FPV was a 175 kW system built at the Far Niente Winery in California in 2008 . This system mounted on top of a water reservoir to avoid occupying land better used for growing grapes. The transition from small- to large-scale FPV projects happened in 2013. Since then, the start for constructing larger FPV projects began. In other words, the initial wave of FPV deployment was limited to several countries including Japan, South Korea, and the United States. After that, China and other countries entered the floating PV market. For example, the first FPV plant larger than 10 MWp was installed in 2016. Floating PV installation increased at an accelerated rate worldwide so that its cumulative capacity was enhanced from 169 MW in 2016 to 1314 MW at the end of 2018 .
Anhui Province in China was home to the world’s largest floating PV installation until the last days of 2021 . As of the first days of 2022, by switching on a 320 MW floating PV array in China’s Shandong province , The title of world’s largest FPV project goes to this province and its FPV project. But the race for making bigger floating PV plants and bearing this title is hot and intense. Asia, especially the south-eastern countries of the continent are the center of this competition. Countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, India, and Laos have held different renewable auctions for mounting larger FPV projects in recent years that we deal with in the following. Moreover, the Netherlands should be added to these countries as a non-Asian country.
Indonesia’s Largest FPV project
More than 17,000 islands and 100 reservoirs plus 521 natural lakes make Indonesia a good place for FPV projects . As a good example of it, Singaporean solar developer Sunseap has signed a contract with the Batam Indonesia Free Zone Authority (BP Batam) to construct a 2.2 GW FPV project at the Duriangkang Reservoir in the southern part of the region. Construction on the FPV plant has started from 2022 and it will be completed in 2024″ . Indonesia plans to build 60 FPV projects in line with its targets to supply 23% of its power generation from renewables by 2025, and 31% by 2030 . It is important to note that when the total capacity of the FPV project at the Duriangkang Reservoir is fully commissioned and connected to the grid, it will reach the same capacity as the largest ground-mounted PV facility that is currently in operation, with a 2.2 GW capacity, in Qinghai province, China . It is important to note that this FPV project would generate more than 2,600 GWh of electricity annually as well as avoid emitting more than 1.8 million tons of carbon per year.
According to the report Indonesia Energy Transition Outlook 2021, the PV facility will sell power at a tariff of $0.0581/kWh. When this huge FPV project completes,it will occupy a water surface of 1,600ha and will be coupled with a storage system with a capacity of 4 GWh.
Singapore’s Largest FPV Project
Singapore is an island state, where the scarce & expansive land together with the need for new renewable energy resources to help reach climate goals, has resulted in the flourishing of renewable energy sources which can be installed offshore. In this regard, the country aims at installing 2 GW of solar capacity by 2030 and FPV is a feasible option to overcome these challenges and meet the target. In 2016, national water agency PUB and the Economic Development Board launched a 1MWp test bed at Tengeh Reservoir which is the world’s largest FPV testbed as well. This testbed project paved the way for the construction of the world’s largest offshore FPV plant as well as the country’s largest FPV plant, placed in the open sea along the Strait of Johor [8,9]. In mid 2021, the world’s largest offshore FPV plant with 60 MW capacity was commissioned. Singapore’s largest FPV project with 60 MW capacity has covered an area equivalent to 45 football fields. It generates 77.3 GWh of clean electricity annually which is equal to the average power demand of 16,000 Singaporean households .
These projects demonstrated that a FPV plant was a feasible option for the country owing to not affecting surrounding wildlife or water quality . Moreover, Singaporean researchers found that a FPV plant with the same capacity of a rooftop solar installation produces more than 15% power in the same condition as a result of the water cooling effect. Therefore, FPV is a better option for Singapore to overcome its land scarcity issue and to reach its climate change goal at the same time.
Solar power can be deployed in two mainstream types and will play key roles in Singapore’s electricity mix due to the geographical constraints of this rich island country. These are BIPV/BAPV and FPV . Currently, most of the solar PV panels in Singapore are on rooftops and largely out-of-sight. Singapore has a lot of skyscrapers and tall buildings which are only energy consumers. Although there are several iconic rooftop solar installations that aim to change the existing mainstream in the building sector. In one of these iconic projects, 100MW rooftop solar is going to be installed including 1,200 public housing residential blocks and 49 governmental buildings to supply electricity demand for Facebook‘s data center in Singapore up to 2022 .
China Broke Their Own Record & Made World’s Largest FPV Project Again
China has taken the leading position in Floating PV share  and their share of global installed capacity was 73% (950 MW) as of the end of 2018. There are about 124.7 thousand km2 of water surface and 46758 hydropower stations in China, which is an enormous unused space. Calculations show that by utilizing only 2% of this available water surface in the country, given that there is a need for 15m2/kW of PV modules, the potential capacity of China for FPV systems can reach 160 GW. This capacity covers about 2500 km2 of water surface and reduces the water evaporation by 2 × 10 power to 27m3/year .
Since 2017 the floating PV plant with 150 MW capacity in Anhui province in China was the largest FPV project in the world for 4 years in a row. This floating PV project, spread across 13 separate islets on an area of 140 hectares, was completed in late 2018 . EPC services were provided by China Energy Conservation Solar Technology (CECST) and the China Energy Engineering Group Shanxi Electric Power Design Institute .
However, now by commissioning the 320 MW floating PV plant in Shandong province, it stood in the second rank with the national record broken again . The Shandong floating PV plant was built in two phases with 200 MW and 120 MW capacities. The first phase is accompanied by 8 MWh of storage capacity and was completed in 2020, while the second phase came online at the end of December 2021. The world’s largest FPV project up to now would provide 550 GWh of electricity per year. This is equivalent to saving 168,000 tons of standard coal and reducing 453,000 tons of CO2 [5,15]. It is important to note that Huaneng Power International, Inc. (HPI) has invested in the construction of the Shandong floating PV plant in Dezhou City.
South Korea’s Largest FPV Project
South Korea is one of the leading countries in the solar energy sector and has been in the forefront of the FPV market as well. In 2020, in a pilot project, Norwegian floating PV specialist Ocean Sun and South Korean tech company EN Technologies have closed a deal on constructing the pilot project of a 2.1 GW Floating PV complex . The FPV facility is located on a water surface close to the Saemangeum, an estuarine tidal flat on the coast of the Yellow Sea . The project has not progressed as planned due to COVID-19 situation.
Ocean Sun’s Patented structure is a zero-angle structure that resolves the sightseeing challenge of ground-mounted plants and inland FPV projects as well as having a higher yield on average 5–6% compared to other FPV structures . That is because of the company’s patented FPV technology, as a special float is based on a thin polymer membrane. This is used to mount PV modules directly on it. The special characteristic of the Ocean Sun’s design in addition classic FPV benefits are real water cooling (direct thermal contact to water with no air in between) and compact modular design which is easily packed and transformed, he added, said Ocean Sun CEO Børge Bjørneklett in an exclusive interview with Solar Edition .
However, the largest FPV project in operation in South Korea is the 41 MW facility which was built by Korean developer Scotra with solar modules provided by South Korea-based manufacturer Hanwha Q-Cells . The project started its operation in late 2021 and is situated at the Hapcheon dam, in the South Gyeongsang province.
Floating Photovltaic Status in India
In the early days of 2021, the Indian government aimed at building the world’s largest floating photovoltaic (FPV) project in the Khandwa district at that time. Recently, the world’s largest FPV project has switched on in Shandong province with 320 GW in China. This 600 MW FPV project will be built on an area of 2000 hectares on a reservoir formed by the Omkareshwar dam across the Narmada river. On completion of the project by 2022-2023, It would be the largest FPV project in the world .
The project’s feasibility study has been completed in collaboration with the World Bank. In addition, three agencies including International Finance Corporation, World Bank and Power Grid aid for construction of the project .
At the moment, India’s largest floating PV plant is located in Simhadri, Andhra Pradesh with 25 MW capacity. This floating PV plant was commissioned by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and its owner is NTPC, a state-run company, in 2021 . This FPV plant has covered an area of more than 40 hectares and it is claimed that BHEL’s structure can withstand gusts of 180 km/h .
FPV Status in Laos
The race for constructing a bigger FPV plant is more intense in Asia than any other continent. As a newcomer, Laos with supplying 62.1% of its electricity demand from hydropower has huge untapped FPV potential which can be coupled to its hydropower reservoirs . Recently, EDF plans to build a 240 MW FPV project at Laos’ largest hydropower dam which is called the Nam Theun 2 hydropower station on the river with the same name . Laos has the potential to be one of the largest south-eastern battery units in Asia as well as the world thanks to its massive hydropower potential. It is worth mentioning that the second-highest growth in that country in the energy sector during 2000−2015 was hydropower at 9.8% per year.
The FPV plant that will be constructed on the Nam Theun 2 hydropower station covers an area of 3.2km2, which corresponds to less than 1% of the reservoir’s area at the full supply level. It is crucial to note that if this project becomes completed by 2022-2023, it will stand at the second rank. Surprisingly the capacity of this project is close to 11 times of the cumulative solar capacity of the country at present time. Laos would turn it into one of the south-eastern Battery units in the world and a net-zero emission country even quicker than other pioneers in this rat race .
FPV Status in Netherlands
Climate change has massively affected the melting process of polar icebergs which also leads to rising sea levels. The Netherlands, as a country with “low altitude” that is “connected directly to the north pole” by the North Sea is at risk of rising sea level . The country’s main solar market is concentrated on rooftop solar installation. But Netherlands plans to fight this urgent challenge by turning it into a unique development opportunity. The country is keen to build the largest solar panel island project to date in which Floating Solar, a Dutch company, has taken over its EPC . It has been set to consist of 15 islands on the Andijk Reservoir in North Holland, 15 floating solar islands, containing 73,500 panels, which will be the first sun-tracking islands of this size in the world . Therefore, the Netherlands will become the house of largest FPV project in Europe and the biggest outside China.
It is important to note that one of Europe’s largest FPV projects as well as the largest one in the Netherlands was installed and commissioned in 2019 near the city of Zwolle, with a total capacity of 14.5 MWp, enough to power almost 4,000 households . It is also noted that a 41 MWdc floating solar plant located on a former sand extraction lake in Sellingen, in the Dutch province of Groningen is now under construction by Groenleven, a part of German renewable energy company Baywa r.e. .
Globally, Asia continues to be the house of biggest and lending projects in the floating solar segment. Europe is starting to pick up speed and gain some market share. Within Europe, France and the Netherlands are catching some serious tailwinds.The World Bank estimated that there is a 400 GW global market capacity for floating photovoltaic projects under conservative estimations, which is equivalent to the complete world cumulative solar capacity by 2017 [1,13, 30]. It is worth mentioning that the total electricity demand of the world could be met by only installing FPV on 51.5% of the total available man-made reservoirs or inland areas globally without considering the nearshore and offshore potential .
Did you know?
 Floating Photovoltaics: A SWOT Analysis https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354690330_FLOATING_PHOTOVOLTAICS_A_SWOT_ANALYSIS
 (2019) ”Where Sun Meets Water : Floating Solar Market Report. World Bank Report, World Bank Group; Energy Sector Management Assistance Program; Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore. 2019. Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank.
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