The idea of floating solar power plants has been doing the rounds for a while.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to have a brief discussion with the founder of Ciel et Terre, Bernard Prouvost. At that time, very few thought that floating solar power plants will be anything more than novelty.

Since then, the company has grown. While floating solar power plants are nowhere near as common as ground mounted power plants, it appears that the concept is gaining acceptance in many regions around the world.

Now, you might ask, why bother putting up solar power plants on water?

Ciel et Terre answers this on their web site

“In many countries, there is a lack of space to install large scale ground-mount solar systems. In parallel, with small and medium rooftop systems in the housing and in industry, large-scale floating power plants are necessary for the solar energy to contribute to the energy mix. As authorities wish to avoid taking away large farmlands for ground-mount solar systems, we must find acceptable ecological alternative solutions.

There are lots of opportunities on inland water bodies in Europe and many other countries. Quarrie lakes, dams, irrigation reservoirs, water-treatment sites or lands liable to flooding: possibilities for the installation of floating PV power plants are infinite! And most of the time, they are close to a grid connection point. As an example, the State of Karnataka, in India, has 36000 irrigation lakes of more than 24 acres, whilst farmland and electricity are missing.

In this context, it was interesting to read about a floating solar power plant planned in Kerala. What was even more interesting was to know that most of the technology would be indigenously developed.

Here’s some more from the news report:

“In a first of its kind, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is gearing up for a 500-kilowatt floating Solar Grid Interactive Photovoltaic project in the Banasurasagar dam in Wayanad.

The Rs.10-crore pilot project will be implemented by Adtech Systems Ltd, a Thiruvananthapuram-based company, with technical support from Vatsaa Energy Pvt. Ltd, (VEPL) a young start-up in Wayanad that had worked to develop the technology.

The project involves erecting a concrete floating structure measuring 53,800 square feet on the reservoir to install a solar power plant with a rated capacity of 500 kW. The project is to feed the grid to be erected by the KSEB…Close to 1,950 solar panels, each generating 260 watts, would be installed on the unique and indigenously developed floating structure.

The pilot project is a scaled-up version of a 10-kW concrete floating solar power plant that has been successfully installed in the reservoir a few months ago. Kerala needs more than 24,000 million units of power a year and it buys about half of it from outside of the State at Rs.13 a unit, KSEB sources said. They added that the government has planned to procure three to five per cent of it from renewable energy sources.

Other highlights:

  • The floating structure will be indigenously developed.
  • The project is expected to be commissioned in about 10 months.
  • A smaller version had been running already for a few months.