Though this application is over a decade old, floating solar on a megawatt scale is gaining momentum just now. At first glance, China and Japan are taking the lead. But with innovative pilots and over 250 MW grant applications the Netherlands is about to make inroads within a year. The reason? Solar cell efficiency.

It started in 2006 when ‘Ciel et Terre’ from Lille, France, developed the first commercial support modules, based upon conventional solar panels. Today this company has a portfolio of over 75 installations in 16 countries.

In cooperation with the solar and semiconductor manufacturer Kyocera (Japan), Ciel et Terre has built one of the biggest floating solar farms in Chiba, 75 kilometres east of Tokyo, last year. The Chiba plant is located on the Yamakura Dam reservoir and consists of some 51.000 solar modules of 18 hectares, generating more than 16 MW annually.

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‘That’s enough electric to power almost 5.000 households’, Kyocera says. The recyclable, polyethylene support modules are anchored to the bottom of the reservoir, thereby withstanding typhoons Japan experiences almost every year.

Meanwhile, China is taking the lead in renewable energy sources worldwide, also with floating solar arrays, the website of World Economic Forum (WEF) brought to the fore. This summer the biggest floating solar farm in the world came online in the city of Huainan, in China’s eastern Anhui province.

The Huainan plant has a capacity of 40 MW, more than twice that of Chiba, and currently supplies to a small town at the borders of the Yangze river. ‘In a stroke of pleasing symbolism’, WEF writes, ‘the plant floats over a former coal mining area’.