Floating Solar to Grow by 22% YoY, Reach 2.4 GW in 2019

Floating Solar to Grow by 22% YoY, Reach 2.4 GW in 2019

According to new research, there will be at least 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of floating solar installed globally by the end of 2019.

Floating Solar 2.4 GW

Although floating solar systems typically involve higher costs than traditional ground mount arrays, project sizes are increasing, which will bring costs down. According to the latest research, the global average project size of floating solar projects has been climbing steadily since 2015 and is expected to continue rising, said Molly Cox, research associate at Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables. 2.4 GW

“Looking ahead, global floating solar demand is expected to grow by an average of 22 percent year-over-year from 2019 through 2024. Floating solar will satisfy just under 1 percent of annual global solar demand by the end of 2019, and 2 percent of global solar demand by 2022,” she added.

Floating Solar 2.4 GW

(Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables)

The research further revealed that the floating solar market has seen remarkable growth over the last few years. The number of individual installations per year has been on the rise since 2013. By the end of 2019, more than 338 floating solar installations are expected to be completed globally in 35 countries, up from 27 countries in 2018.

Today’s floating solar market is concentrated in Asia, which currently contributes 87 percent of global floating solar capacity. South Korea and Taiwan are the region’s largest markets in terms of capacity, Cox added.

According to the author, the challenge for technology is the Balance of System and Soft Costs. Solar modules, inverters and floating structures are all mature technologies. The floating solar context, however, involves a new set of risks. All-in costs for these floating solar applications are typically more expensive than ground mount applications of similar size and location, a result of high soft costs and structural balance of system costs (SBOS).

SBOS includes the floating structure, mooring and anchoring systems. For the floating structure alone, solutions can vary quite a bit vendor to vendor. Furthermore, a unique mooring and anchoring solution must be designed and engineered for each site based on water-level variation, exposure to extreme weather, among other factors. For the average floating solar array in China between 5-10 MWdc in size, SBOS will make up about 34 percent of all-in costs, compared to 8% for a ground mount array of similar size and location.

Soft costs (labor, design & engineering, supply chain and logistics) are another significant contributing factor to high CAPEX for floating solar applications. These costs can vary significantly across projects and can be difficult to account for going into a project. Ambiguity around O&M and post-installation costs can also deter developers and investors.

These cost challenges, however, will respond to the growth of the market and increasing project scale -which is exactly what we expect to see in the floating solar market over the next few years.

As more floating solar projects come online, it will become easier to assess system performance, and O&M advances and economics should bring costs down – presenting new opportunities in new markets for floating solar players, the report concluded.

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Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.