|The site’s owners, Thames Water, has confirmed the reservoir will be the largest floating solar farm in the world for the time being. No doubt there will be solar farmers around the world that will look at and visit the manmade lake to see how impressive and how viable it would be to create one in their own backyard.
But the only people likely to get a good view of the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir of those passengers flying in and out of the nearby airport at Heathrow or some top floor apartment dwellers in a nearby block of flats.
The largest floating solar farm has been five years in the making. It opened in March 2016 and cost £6.5 million to build. It is a feat of engineering which has seen divers plunge to the lake bed and fix in several anchors. The floats are only located at the water’s edge and the power it will harvest is destined for London and surrounding districts water treatment plants.
Only about 5% of the water’s surface is actually covered by the solar panels, so there will be little impact on the environment, according to Thames Water. The energy will be used to provide clean drinking water for about 11 million people – the population of Greater London, outer London, and surrounding counties. Providing water for this number of people is already a massive drain on the environment as it uses so much electricity to get the water from reservoirs to taps.
A brief visit to the reservoir and you might spot some moorhens, wading birds and seagulls flapping around but it was not intended to be a home for wildfowl, water voles or fish – any pond life you do find in the reservoir are here by accident and will have drifted in through the ever-flowing streams which pour into the lake, which is a staggering 20 metres (66 feet) deep in some places.
There’s a great deal of water here but Londoners do consume so much of it, especially in the east of the capital where the population is at its densest. However, there is some concern that future projects of a similar nature in Britain may be mothballed because of their high cost.