Duke Power will construct its first floating photo voltaic array at Fort Bragg, a U.S. Military base in North Carolina, the corporate stated on Wednesday. It’s the biggest such venture ever introduced within the Southeast, in keeping with Wooden Mackenzie.

The $36 million contract between Duke and Fort Bragg is designed to spice up resilience and contains lighting and water upgrades, plus a 2 megawatt storage system tacked onto the photo voltaic venture. Ameresco, a Massachusetts-based renewables developer and vitality effectivity firm, will construct the venture on a lake on the base. Fort Bragg will take over possession when the venture is completed.  

At 1.1 MW, the Duke venture is not any file by common photo voltaic requirements. The largest U.S. photo voltaic vegetation rank above 600 MW. However the venture is a notable addition to the nation’s tiny however burgeoning floating photo voltaic market.

The typical measurement of floating PV (FPV) installations within the U.S. is 1.5 MW, per WoodMac’s monitoring. The nation’s largest venture, a four.four MW set up in New Jersey, went in simply final 12 months. The nation has to date put in solely about 9 MW of FPV, making the Fort Bragg set up “fairly substantial,” stated WoodMac photo voltaic analyst Molly Cox.

Globally, floating PV is only a small fraction of the general photo voltaic market: lower than 2 gigawatts of the close to 600 GW now put in worldwide. The expertise is most generally utilized in Asia, the place land constraints make it an attractive possibility. Eighty-seven % of 2019 installations have been situated in that area.

In contrast, North America accounted for lower than 1 % of floating PV capability put in final 12 months.

“The U.S. doesn’t essentially face the identical demand drivers as different FPV markets in Asia, [but] there may be rising curiosity for FPV throughout the nation,” stated Cox in an electronic mail.

The U.S. may have 14 MW put in by the tip of 2020, if the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t stall tasks.

Assessing FPV’s potential

In idea, floating photo voltaic has quite a lot of “co-benefits” apart from pure, renewable energy manufacturing.

The cooling impact water has on panels can enhance photo voltaic efficiency, whereas photo voltaic panels can shade components of water our bodies like reservoirs and cut back evaporation. The development of a venture requires decrease land acquisition prices and means much less shading on modules.

A 2018 research printed by researchers on the Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory discovered that FPV may generate about 10 % of complete U.S. electrical energy if installations have been plopped on simply over 1 / 4 of the nation’s present human-made water our bodies the place FPV is possible.

Beneath present estimates of FPV potential, all the world may set up as much as 1,000 GW. That potential is even higher when FPV methods are paired with hydropower, reaching four,400 to five,700 GW.

Constructing hybrid hydropower-FPV methods may produce four,251 terawatt-hours to 10,616 terawatt-hours of electrical energy annually from the photo voltaic alone, in keeping with a brand new research from NREL. That represents between 10 and 40 % of worldwide electrical energy consumption in 2018, in keeping with information from the Worldwide Power Company.

NREL’s most up-to-date research is “actually optimistic,” as a result of it doesn’t account for economics or market feasibility, stated Nathan Lee, a researcher on the lab and the lead writer on the research. However the brand new evaluation reveals an “upper-bound estimate” of FPV’s worldwide potential primarily based on obtainable our bodies of water and anticipated efficiency of FPV property.

NREL thought-about hybrid FPV-hydropower methods that might share a substation and transmission. Pairing the 2 sources creates a “agency, dispatchable generator” and will increase output by lowering photo voltaic curtailment.  

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