Sea-going solar energy comes of age globally

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Countries around the world are floating the idea of waterborne solar-electricity farms.

The advantages: Evaporation helps cool the photovoltaic panels, improving their efficiency and lengthening their useful lives; a spritz of water from automated pumps can clear dirt from panels’ faces; and sailing solar systems don’t compete with people or crops for space on land.

In Japan, photovoltaic panel maker Kyocera is building a 7.5-megawatt floating solar farm on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture. Aqua Clean Energy and Solar Power Inc., a Chinese company, expect to install up to 50 megawatts of floating solar power across the US and Mexico; and in India, a country always short of space, the National Hydro Power Corporation plans a 50-megawatt installation across a series of inland water bodies.

TREND FORECAST: This big idea can and will work in small places, too: SPG, now owned by Sun Edison, installed a “Floatovoltaic” energy system on the Far Niente Winery’s irrigation pond in California’s Napa Valley. Expect to see this trend line evolve on both macro and micro levels.

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