A new study of existing research on water-based PV (WPV) technologies points to gaps in published reports on the technologies, particularly on environmental impacts in general and cost analyzes of on-channel solar power in particular.
In his article “Comprehensive overview of water-based PV: Flotavoltaics, under water, offshore & canal top” published in Ocean EngineeringAritra Ghosh described the technical characteristics of four different types of WPV systems – underwater, floating, offshore and on-channel – and presented the effect of environmental factors on their performance.
“Floating solar PVs (FPVs) are more common in research today and are most often installed in stationary bodies of water worldwide, such as lakes or ponds, while the top of a channel is popular in India,” he explained.
FPV has been extensively researched in shallow water and open sea because it offers significant positive features such as low solar cell temperature and better electrical efficiency, does not require expensive land costs, and is relatively less affected by dust and shadowing. While the paper provides highlights of studies on the benefits and effectiveness of underwater solar, offshore electric and FPV equipment, Grosh said intensive research studies and cost analyzes of over-channel solar are not widely available.
For this review, Grosh used relevant databases—including Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, Scopus, and Web of Science—to examine the literature that had been published over the past few decades. The Scopus database maintained by Elsevier covers citations and abstract information especially for peer-reviewed literature, such as scientific journals, books and conference proceedings.
“Knowledge of the ecological effects of WPV systems is limited. At the moment, most of the scientific work is focused on the development of technology instead of environmental effects,” the study points out. “Careful planning is essential before installing a WPV system to minimize natural damage and improve environmental impact.”
The paper highlights the important role of WPV as the “third pillar of the global solar market”, along with ground-mounted and building-integrated solar PV. However, the success of WPV requires public support. Grosh specifically cites the use of underwater solar power in swimming pools as a case where people need to understand the benefits due to the higher initial costs. “Currently, there is no study reported that can address a specific area and conduct a study of the societal impact of WPV.”
Grosh concludes that significant information sharing is vital and “various stakeholders such as solar, marine, ocean and water research bodies should work together to find a simpler solution for WPV application in the future.”