- How does Floating-PV benefit lake owners?
You can actively advance your sustainability credentials. In addition, you can generate long-term lease income by making your space available to us, where previously costs were incurred at best. You can become the owner of the floating system, either by buying it or by hire purchase. The electricity can be used for your own consumption, enabling you to secure your energy costs for the long term and avoid possible CO2 taxes, or you can sell the electricity on to another company.
Operators of hydroelectric power stations benefit from dual use of the reservoir to maximise energy production. At high solar irradiation, the floating solar park delivers electricity, and at low irradiation or at night, the hydro technology delivers electricity. Furthermore, a Floating-PV system will reduce evaporation from their reservoir, and the existing grid connection can be used, which lowers the cost of installation. A real win-win situation.
- What are the benefits of partnering with BayWa r.e.?
With more than 30 years of experience in the field of renewables, we draw upon extensive know-how. We are a quality-orientated, full-service provider with a strong financial background. Our parent company BayWa AG generated a turnover of 17.2 billion euros in 2020.
- Does the system impact marine life or birds?
We don’t expect any negative impact on fauna. At our first parks in the Netherlands, we can already see birds sitting on the system and resting just next to it. Qualitative and quantitative studies are currently under way.
- Is there any impact on water quality?
We have not seen any negative impact on water quality. Qualitative and quantitative studies are currently under way. With the patent-registered Zim Float, developed together with Zimmermann, we allow maximum water movement beneath the system. We expect less algae build-up due to moderate shadows underneath the construction – certain types of algae require substantial light to grow, so a reduction of these varieties might result. Other varieties thrive in the shade, but we use a specific type of glass/glass modules in our system which let a lot of light through, so they only cast moderate shadows. We think this could create the ideal conditions for avoiding excessive growth of both kinds of algae.
An initial study by scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands shows that the water quality under PV modules remains very good: click here for the study.
- Are there any safety issues related to electricity on water?
No. Our Floating-PV systems fulfil all electrical regulations relating to the installation of electrical systems. We install a perfect grounding system to protect the system from any electrical failures. Our systems are reviewed and certified by the independent company VDE and are compliant with all electrical regulations and standards. We use the highest standard of cables and components, certified for use in water. Nevertheless, our cabling design is kept completely out of the water, hidden under the subconstruction of the floating boats, so that cables are protected from the sun and have only minimum contact with the water. This also guarantees the long life of the construction and easy maintenance.
- Which waters are suitable for Floating-PV systems?
In principle, our Floating-PV solution can be installed on all inland waters with moderate snow load, which have water reserves all year round. However, in order to avoid competition with the recreational use of many domestic waters, we focus exclusively on (formerly) commercially used, artificial waters, such as reservoirs or quarry lakes resulting from gravel or coal mining.
- Is it possible to use the water for Floating-PV and other purposes (e.g. recreational use) simultaneously?
That would be possible in theory, but we are currently focusing primarily on bodies of water such as sand pits, coal mining areas and water storage facilities, which are not used for recreation or tourism. There are many unused areas of water that could assume a new function, making it unnecessary to use those with high recreational value or major visual impact, thus avoiding any conflict of interest with the current users.
- In which countries is BayWa r.e. installing Floating-PV systems?
At the moment we are focusing on the European market. But, as a global company, we are also looking for opportunities around the world, e.g. in the APAC region.
- Are there Floating-PV plants in Germany?
So far, the first smaller plants for self-consumption with 0.75 - 1.5 MWp have already been realized in Germany. BayWa r.e. will build Germany's largest Floating-PV plant to date in 2022 with an output of over 3 MWp.
- Can the Floating-PV system be removed from the lake?
The floating systems can be disassembled without any problems, allowing them to be brought back to the shore as they were built. All of the material can be recycled and re-used.
- Durability/Safety: What happens to Floating-PV systems when the water surface freezes?
The substructure is similar to those we use for ground-mounted plants, and the floating pontoons are made of HDPE. This material has been used for many years in other offshore applications, such as harbours or floating platforms. The pontoons consist of two layers – an inner recyclable layer and an external layer with high UV persistence, resulting in a long-term quality. The pontoons are also designed to withstand ice in the event that the lake freezes. Snow and ice, fire, pressure and UV irradiation are all considered long before construction, and the anchoring concept is designed to adhere to all Eurocode safety factors.
- Is any space required on land?
All inverters and transformers for our system float on the water, so there is no extra space required on land except for a small station to connect the park to the grid, and possibly a container for spare parts.
- Why can’t we build smaller than 2 MWp?
Our 2 MWp blocks are electrically and mechanically designed, simulated and tested in standard blocks including the required inverter and transformer units. A modification or removal of some parts would make the system incomplete and more vulnerable to damage and failures. To maintain the high quality standards of BayWa r.e., we stick with these proven blocks.
- Is Floating-PV a proven technology?
Floating-PV is not a new technology, only a new application of an existing technology. Our Floating-PV systems fulfil all Eurocode standards and are certified by VDE. The system is based on the construction experience of BayWa r.e., who have installed more than 1 GWp. It is maintained by BayWa r.e.’s O&M unit and ensures investors a smooth operation over the lifetime of the project.
Due to our position monitoring, we make sure to always determine the exact location of the Floating-PV system, which further increases the safety. For those investing in Floating-PV from BayWa r.e., the return, risk and administration are no different than when investing in ground-mounted projects, as all the particulars are handled by our experienced teams.
- What is the average lifespan of a Floating-PV system?
The floating parks are designed for more than 30 years – the same as ground-mounted parks.
- What are the advantages of Floating-PV compared to rooftop and ground-mounted PV?
Compared to ground-mounted parks, the big advantage is that no agricultural land is used, and the parks do not conflict with food production. Compared to rooftop systems, much bigger systems can be realised at lower LCOE (capex and opex). Furthermore, constructing and maintaining Floating-PV plants bears lower risks for our employees than rooftop installations.
- Are there any disadvantages of Floating-PV compared to rooftop and ground-mounted PV?
We use the same solar panels and technical components. We guarantee reliable energy production and secure long-term yields. We experience even higher yields with a floating system, since the water works as a natural cooling system increasing the efficiency of the solar panels. Furthermore, the compact installation and the smart cabling results in very low electricity consumption.
- Who will operate and manage my Floating-PV plant?
The plant will be operated and managed by the experts of the BayWa r.e. O&M team, who have already gained experience from our initial floating projects in the Netherlands. Remote 24/7 monitoring is guaranteed from our control centre based in Munich
- How can you ensure the safety of the system and especially the safety of individuals using the water as a lake for swimming?
Our Floating-PV systems fulfil all electrical regulations relating to the installation of electrical systems. We install a perfect grounding system to protect the system from any electrical failures. Our systems are reviewed and certified by the independent company VDE and are compliant with all electrical regulations and standards. Furthermore, we focus on lakes that are not used for recreational purposes.
- What about visual impact and conflict with tourism?
We are primarily looking at non-recreational waters, such as sand and gravel pits, quarry ponds, coal mining areas and water storage facilities, which are not used for tourism. There are many unused waterbodies that could assume a new function, making it unnecessary to use those with high recreational value or major visual impact.
- Are floating solar systems the future of photovoltaics?
Yes. In addition to ground-mounted photovoltaics and rooftop PV systems, Floating-PV will become increasingly important and make a significant contribution to advancing the energy transition in a land-neutral manner. Floating-PV is increasingly being referred to as the third pillar of solar energy. Read more here.
- What needs to happen for Floating-PV to gain a foothold in Germany?
Currently, the introduction of a dedicated sustainable Floating-PV subsidy segment, as well as a faster, simpler and clearer approval process that is in line with the existing mining plans and subsequent reclamation plans, would be particularly useful throughout the Federal Republic of Germany in order for floating solar plants to gain a foothold in Germany. Additionally, a special subsidy for plants between 10 and 30 MWp combined with falling prices for PV system components could enable a faster expansion for Floating-PV in Germany.
- What is the potential of Floating-PV systems in Germany and Europe?
According to a study by the World Bank, there is a potential of 204 GWp in Europe alone if 10% of the man-made freshwater areas are used (Source: Where Sun Meets Water, Floating Solar Market Report, 2019 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / World Bank, page 57, chart).
In Germany, the potential for Floating-PV is over 2 GWp, assuming 10% coverage of artificial lakes suitable for Floating-PV and taking into account all exclusion criteria (nature and landscape protection, recreation/recreational activities, etc.). Furthermore, Fraunhofer ISE estimates the Floating-PV potential on lignite lakes alone in Germany to be 1.6-5.5 GW.
- Is Floating-PV compatible with existing (e.g. recreational) water usage?
Floating-PV is a very safe installation that does not cause harm to people.
- Is floating solar energy more expensive than ground-mounted PV?
Floating-PV is still more expensive than ground-mounted PV, but it also generates higher yields due to the cooling effect of the water, and costs are constantly dropping due to technical improvement.
- Do you offer subsidy-free Floating-PV systems?
Just as with ground-mounted systems, we would also like to install subsidy-free Floating-PV systems where it is economically possible. A good (water) surface, a nearby grid connection point, and favorable climatic conditions at the site are crucial for this.