German Govt Funds Study on Economic Viability of Floating PV

Highlights :

  • The German government will fund a three-year research project to investigate the economic potential of floating PV on the open-pit lakes left behind by lignite mining.
  • For the PV2Float project, Fraunhofer ISE and BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg have been recruited as partners.
German Govt Funds Study on Economic Viability of Floating PV

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding a research project to develop the technology of floating PV systems and investigate its economic viability. The government is partnering with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg to carry out the so called “PV2Float project.”

Floating PV systems are installed on open water surfaces. They offer potential for renewable power generation and climate protection, and the technology hasn’t been widely adopted yet. In contrast to conventional ground-mounted systems, the PV modules are mounted on floats or membranes, which are put out on bodies of still open water and on the sea. In Germany alone there are about 500 open pit lakes, leftover from the country’s lignite open cast mining past.

According to Fraunhofer ISE, the potential of these open pit lakes from a purely technical standpoint is in the mid double-digit gigawatt range. Thus, floating PV opens up new applications for these former mines in locations such as Lusatia in the east of Germany.

The power plants installed and tested in the PV2Float project form an important basis for the research work, with which a precise analysis of the technical requirements, economic efficiency and the ecological effects of floating PV power plants in Germany will be carried out. Acceptance of the new technology will also be investigated.

In addition to selecting the location of the site, the project partner RWE will carry out a comprehensive potential analysis of the German and international market for floating PV. RWE has many years of experience in the construction and operation of ground-mounted PV plants. Currently the company is implementing a floating PV project in the Netherlands. Thorsten Miltkau, Senior Manager Solar Power at RWE renewables explains, “We see great potential for floating PV worldwide. With this research project, we want to deepen our knowledge of the technical possibilities of floating PV systems, such as scalability and energy yield, and transfer the findings to commercial projects.”

The demonstration PV plant is to be designed and built together with Volta Solar. Four floating PV installations and a reference installation on land with a total power of around 150 kilowatts are planned. Heckert Solar, a solar module manufacturer in Chemnitz, will support the project with innovative PV module concepts.

VDE Renewables is evaluating the developed power plant concepts to ensure that they comply with standards and electrical safety. They will also inspect the plants after construction. Fraunhofer ISE will investigate the regulatory framework for floating PV plants and is also developing a procedure for the participation of local stakeholders. Additionally, the institute will perform durability tests on the individual system components, further develop PV modules as well as simulation models on energy yield, adapting them to meet the particular requirements of floating applications, where necessary.

Stefan Wieland, project head at Fraunhofer ISE, says, “Bodies of water put special demands on the design, material, environmental compatibility and operational management of floating PV power plants. In the project, these aspects are investigated for large floating PV plants.” The aquatic ecology monitoring is the responsibility of BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg and the Institut für Wasser und Boden Dr. Uhlmann in Dresden.

Dr. Dieter Leßmann of the Faculty of Water Protection at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg adds, “The ecological compatibility of floating PV systems is a basic prerequisite for approval and authorization. In the research project PV2Float, we will deepen our knowledge on the ecological effects that these systems may have on bodies of water.”

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.