Solar power farms are a great idea, but not all countries have enough land to build them in a sufficient size. Enter floating solar power plants and you have a solution. These can be built on lakes and ponds, as well as water reservoirs where they have the benefit of preventing water evaporation and algae overgrowth. However, building them on oceans where they would make the most sense has not been achieved with much success until now.
A team of Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology has developed the so-called Heliofloat solar panel platform, which they believe could be used on the ocean. The Heliofloat platforms are lightweight and flexible, meaning they can follow the waves and remain steady on the surface of the ocean even during storms and other rough weather.
They have achieved this breakthrough by supporting the bottom of the Heliofloat with open floatation devices and not closed ones. The resulting platforms look a lot like upside-down barrels, which were built using a flexible material. These barrels allow a column of air to form over the water, which enables the platform to float. They also act as a shock absorber, allowing the platforms to stay afloat in all types of weather, because the waves rise and fall under the platform, which makes it possible for the actual panels to remain steady.
The researchers are certain that large, football field sized installations of these platforms would be possible. These Heliofloats can also be installed near seawater desalination plants, where they would provide the needed energy in a clean and affordable way.
The researchers are getting ready to unveil a small-scale prototype at the upcoming Hannover Messe Trade Fair in Germany. They are also talking to possible investors in an efforts to secure finding to start producing larger-scale versions of the Heliofloats.