​Aussies to get their first-ever floating solar panel plant

Reuters / Paul Hackett
Australia is to build a floating solar power plant to feed a water treatment facility near Jamestown. The plant is expected to be efficient enough to produce some extra juice for the city itself.

The construction of the plant is about to begin and is expected to be completed by early April, ABC reported.

The project aims to have most of the work done on land and offsite. An array of photovoltaic panels mounted on buoyant tubular structures will be slotted together at the facility. Most of the electrical equipment will remain on shore.

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"The plants that we had operating overseas were really behind the meter and not at the utility level and certainly didn't have some of the sophistication," Felicia Whiting of Infratech Industries said, referring to the company’s earlier smaller-scale projects in France, Italy and South Korea.

In addition to saving valuable land area, “floatovoltaic” panels have an advantage over their land-based cousins: the water of the reservoir they are built in cools them. According to Whiting, the plant near Jamestown would be about 57 percent more efficient than their standard counterparts.

An extra bonus is preventing evaporation, which would preserve water in the dry climate of South Australia. With the panels covering almost the entire surface of the water treatment pool, evaporation would drop some 90 percent, Whiting said.

“For dry states and dry climates that's a big water saving measure," Whiting told the channel.

The water treatment facility would also benefit from reduced algae growth due to the panels ability to block sunlight.

Floating solar plant projects have been fascinating the world for quite a while. In December, Kyocera TCL Solar LLC, announced a project to build the biggest plant of its kind in Japan - a 13.4 MW floating solar power plant is destined for the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture. India will also launch a pilot project with a 10 KW capacity near Kolkata.