Floating solar needs new technical standards

29 November 2018 |

SECI recently completed auction for India’s first large-scale floating solar plant. The 50 MW project at Rihand dam in Uttar Pradesh was won by Shapoorji Pallonji with a bid of INR 3.29/ kWh. The winning tariff is about 10% higher than observed in respective ground-mounted auctions.

Floating solar is still in nascent stages of development in India with installed capacity of just 2.7 MW at present. However, MNRE has ambitious plans and intends to add 10 GW of floating solar as part of its 227 GW renewable energy target by 2022. Capacity under development has already reached 1,639 MW.

Like any new technology in its early stages of deployment, floating solar faces some unique challenges and risks. Main challenges include higher capital cost, absence of bathymetric and hydrographic data on water bodies and exposure to moisture and Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Similarly, lack of quality standards for systems installed on water surface poses unusual performance and environmental risks. High ambient moisture content combined with long-term UV exposure makes floating solar plants susceptible to higher degradation. Use of high-quality modules with appropriate water vapour transmission rate and floats which provide necessary protection against harsh aquatic environment can substantially mitigate this risk.

Moreover, as floating solar systems are usually deployed in ecologically sensitive areas, inadequate design and/ or poor quality can pose water contamination risk during plant construction and operation. Potential leaching out of hazardous materials used in making these components could have a negative impact on both human and marine life.

As deployment of floating solar is gathering pace, it is pertinent that formulation of adequate specifications, quality and safeguard standards is taken up urgently by policy makers and procurement agencies to support healthy market development. This would go a long way in providing quality assurance to the various stakeholders and pave way for accelerated growth in a sustainable way.

To access our recent floating solar report, click here

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