U.S. needs a buoyant force for solar panels on water

Mar 19, 2019, 8:29 AM EDT
(Source: National Renewable Energy Lab/flickr)
(Source: National Renewable Energy Lab/flickr)

The idea of solar panels on water picked up steam in Asia later than it was implemented in a non-experimental venture in California in 2008. The U.S. has since been a laggard, while China and Japan have latched onto floating photovoltaics.

Japan is home to more than 60 such installations, while China hosts the largest facility of floating solar arrays on water, which has 166,000 panels, producing 40 megawatts of electricity. This liking for "floating" solar energy stems from serious incentives of the technology, reports Scientific American.

Floating photovoltaics don’t eat up land resources, are easier to install, and have a 20 percent higher efficiency, as water regulates the temperature of solar cells. Evidently, the U.S. has been sluggish in adopting the technology with just 14 installations at the end of 2018.

Multiple factors could be contributing to this muted growth of floating solar panels in the U.S., one being the generous availability of open lands. Also, big players give cold shoulder to the technology for uncertainties over its economic output.