With the “green recovery” boom sweeping the world, floating photovoltaics have become a new hot spot for investment in the energy sector. A few days ago, industry consulting agency Fitch (FitchSolutions) issued a report stating that with the strong support of governments around the world, it is expected that the global floating photovoltaic installations are expected to exceed 10 GW in the next five years.

Huge potential for installed capacity growth

The report pointed out that from the existing data, there are a total of 16 announced plans or floating photovoltaic projects under construction worldwide, with a total installed capacity of more than 11 GW. At the same time, many countries with the highest global photovoltaic installed capacity have begun pilot work of floating photovoltaic projects, which has promoted the continuous decline of the cost of floating photovoltaics. Under the influence of the above-mentioned multiple factors, it is expected that in the next few years, the total amount of public utility-scale floating photovoltaic installations will show explosive growth.

In fact, studies by many institutions have shown that from the perspective of available resources, the global development of floating photovoltaics has considerable potential. According to a research result previously released by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), if floating photovoltaic facilities are installed in the reservoirs of all hydropower stations in the world, it will be able to meet nearly half of the world’s electricity demand.

In addition, according to the latest research report released by the industry research organization DNVGL, the resource potential of the global existing hydropower station reservoirs for floating photovoltaic will reach 4 terawatts.

Fitch analysts said that at present, many countries around the world are deploying floating photovoltaic facilities. Last year, the Netherlands opened the world’s first offshore floating photovoltaic project; in July this year, the Spanish utility company Acciona also announced that it would build the country’s first floating photovoltaic project with a total installed capacity of 1.1 MW. More large-scale floating photovoltaic installations will be built in the reservoirs of more hydroelectric power stations in Spain.

Asian countries play “pioneer”

From a regional perspective, the report emphasizes that Asia will lead the development of the global floating photovoltaic market. Fitch pointed out that most Asian countries with fast-growing photovoltaic industry have long coastlines or a large number of reservoirs, which has laid a good foundation for the development of floating photovoltaics. Many Asian countries have already implemented large-scale floating photovoltaic projects.

The report statistics show that among the 16 floating photovoltaic projects currently planned or under construction, 14 are located in Asian countries. Among them, the floating photovoltaic market in China, South Korea, India, Thailand and Vietnam will perform “particularly outstanding” in the next 10 years. “As the world’s largest photovoltaic market, China has a promising development prospect for floating photovoltaic technology. So far, there have been a number of large-scale floating photovoltaic projects under construction, including the 320 MW floating photovoltaic project in Cixi, Hangzhou, and Anhui 150 MW floating photovoltaic projects, etc. At the same time, South Korea is also planning to build a floating photovoltaic project with an installed capacity of 2.1 GW.”

The report also believes that Vietnam’s floating photovoltaic market is also worth looking forward to. The report said: “Although Vietnam has increased its bidding for ground-based photovoltaic power plants, the electricity price of floating photovoltaic projects in Vietnam is as high as 7.69 cents/kWh, which is more attractive to investors.”

It is also understood that the Vietnamese government has announced that it will hold two tenders for floating photovoltaic projects this year and next. It is expected that the tender for 50-100 MW projects will be completed by the end of this year, and the tender for another 300 MW project will be completed in 2021. .

Fitch pointed out that at present, many countries around the world have given certain subsidies to floating photovoltaic projects, and at the same time, there are also certain policy inclination for technology development. This is also one of the main reasons for the rapid development of floating photovoltaic in Asian countries.

Indispensable for the energy transition

In fact, floating photovoltaics are not a new thing. Related projects were first born in Japan in 2007, and the world’s first commercialized floating photovoltaic projects were also put into use in the United States in the following year. With the expansion of photovoltaic installations in various countries and the decline in the cost of photovoltaic kilowatt-hours, floating photovoltaics have once again attracted the attention of investors.

The report said that under the condition of increasingly scarce land resources, the use of undeveloped waters to achieve renewable energy power generation will be very popular. Therefore, it is expected that floating photovoltaics will also play an important role in the global energy transition.

Earlier, DNVGL also pointed out in its “Energy Transition Outlook” that if countries around the world achieve their emission reduction targets by 2050, photovoltaic installations should increase by more than 10 times to 5 terawatts. Among them, the development of floating photovoltaic projects Indispensable.

Fitch’s report analysis believes that floating photovoltaics can make better use of water space combined with hydropower projects, and the construction time of the power station is relatively short. In addition, the application of floating photovoltaics can also play a beneficial role in the water itself, whether it is a drinking water reservoir or a hydropower project, combined with floating photovoltaics will reduce the intensity of water surface evaporation and may even inhibit the production of algae.

In the view of NREL researcher Nathan Lee, the construction of floating photovoltaic projects in hydropower reservoirs has many advantages. It can not only use hydropower in rainy seasons, but also make full use of photovoltaic power generation in dry and rainy seasons. At the same time, pumped storage devices are used in this area. There may also be application space in the system, which can be called “three birds with one stone”.

However, some industry experts reminded that, considering that the floating photovoltaic market is not yet mature, relevant technical standards and long-term project risks still need to be confirmed. The analysis believes that the cost of floating photovoltaic projects often varies from project to project, and is closely related to the water depth, water quality and salinity of the water area where the project is located, as well as the wind intensity in the area.

In this regard, Nathan Lee also admitted that despite the huge potential of floating photovoltaics, this does not mean that all water bodies can be developed commercially. In the future, the environmental constraints of various water bodies and the overall performance of the power generation system still need to be considered.