Following the example of Japan, which has already begun constructing numerous floating solar arrays to meet it’s renewable energy goals, UK’s Thames Water has now announced plans to do the same. They are already building what will be the largest floating solar array in Europe, and they plan to install it on a reservoir in London. This project is part of Thames Water’s goal of finding solutions to generate one third of its own energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Placing a solar array onto a body of water is actually a very good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is hard to obtain large areas of land where solar panels can be installed, especially in densely populated cities such as London. The second reason why placing them in water makes great sense is that the water can then be used to cool the panels, which makes them perform better and extends their lifespan. And placing them on reservoirs has the added benefit of blocking out sunlight and therefore inhibits algae growth in the water, while it also reduces loss of water through evaporation.
The floating solar array in London will be constructed on the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir, which is located near Walton-on-Thames. It will be comprised of 23,000 solar PV panels, which will be used to cover around one-tenth of the large body of water. To put in perspective, the covered area will be roughly the size of 8 football pitches. The capacity of the array will be 6.3 MW and it is estimated to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours of energy in the first year. This would be enough energy to power around 1,800 households for a full year. The power generated by the array will be used to partially power the water treatment plant located near the reservoir.