The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and its partners have assessed the technical feasibility of floating solar power across Southeast Asia.
Floating solar electricity offers a promising renewable energy solution to land use restrictions for electricity production. The technology is of particular importance to land-scarce countries, including numerous Southeast Asian island nations, as they strive to transition to a zero-emissions economy.
NREL partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission in Asia to assess the technical feasibility of floating solar power throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). ASEAN has set a goal of achieving 35% of installed capacity from renewable energy sources by 2025.
NREL has evaluated technical feasibility of floating solar PV (FPV) in 10 ASEAN countries using a solar data research tool.
NREL said floating solar power is particularly attractive in places where hydroelectric infrastructure is planned or already exists, and the increase or severity of droughts could cause hydroelectric generation reliability issues. Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to this risk of hydropower underproduction because of its strong network of established facilities.
“Also, much of the area is covered in rainforest ecosystems,” said Evan Rosenlieb, a geospatial data scientist at NREL. “Placing PV in water can be a way to increase renewable energy production without deforestation.”
Southeast Asia is also a hotbed for aquaculture, or growing fish, shellfish and aquatic plants in a controlled body of water. These sites are targeted as another possible alternative to floating PV.
“This combination of aquaculture and solar PV, commonly referred to as AquaPV, can allow countries to co-locate energy and food production in existing natural or artificially created water bodies while minimizing the overall environmental impact of both sectors,” said Prateek Joshi, NREL. energy engineer.
Joshi and the NREL team said that aquaculture and solar energy can help increase food security in the region by providing dedicated, sustainable energy production for critical food sources.
The information included in the report is publicly available as a resource for developers interested in learning more about the technical and economic potential of floating solar power in the region.
“This data will spark further discussion and can inform decisions about the potential role of (floating PV) in the region. It would not have been possible without all the existing work from previous (floating PV) studies and the previous development of the RE Data Explorer tools,” NREL Energy Technology and politics researcher Sika Gadzanku.