If there is one thing that can be said about Japan and its people, they will always look at things differently, create things differently, and are prepared to take a chance on the impossible. Japan has a long history of innovation, ideas, and floating solar panels, this one takes it too the edge.
The country is energy-hungry just like any other country needs power. But land costs and space are a premium. Only one thing other hindered the solar efforts – the country’s lack of suitable land for developing a solar farm. This solar power plant is a part of the Fukushima prefecture, which has a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by the year 2040. The two floating solar power plants located at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City would generate 1.7 MW and 1.2 MW of power respectively. They were built using Kyocera modules fixed to specially developed floating platforms which are attached to the lake beds.
The systems consist of almost 9,000 solar panels on a bed of polyethene and are fully waterproof. They are expected to generate 3300 MWh annually, providing clean energy for about 920 typical households annually.
According to Kyocera Corporation, these platforms are made of high-density polyethene which can resist corrosion, withstand ultraviolet rays, and are 100% recyclable. They can also withstand high-speed typhoons and are also earthquake proof. The one disadvantage is the high cost of installation and maintenance.
The main advantage of building a solar power plant over water is simply – efficiency. The water underneath the modules would not only keep it cool, but this would also improve the overall efficiency of the whole system. Other advantages include water conservation by preventing evaporation from the ocean surface and promoting algae growth beneath the ocean surface. One problem that ground-based solar power plants face is the dust and dirt, as areas with high solar concentration tend to be arid. But that is not a problem with floating solar power plants.
The plant’s 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300-megawatt hours (MWh) every year.
This solar plant is probably the largest floating power plant in the world, but maybe not for much longer. Kyocera Corporation is planning a second solar farm east of Tokyo, slated to open next March. That plant would be much larger than the present one and is expected to provide electricity to 5000 households. The designers are hoping that it will generate an estimated 15,635-megawatt hours annually – that’s more than five times as much as the plant that just went online.