January 17, 2015

SCV solar vs. Japan: Who floats to the top?

Solar panels are popping up all over SCV—whether they be on rooftops, over high school parking lots and even at the Castaic Lake Water Agency. But, there aren’t panels in the lake—yet. Around the world, the current solar installation trend is moving toward placing solar panels on top of bodies of water.

Recently, Japanese companies, Kyocera Corp and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp declared that they would together build a solar power plant floating on top of Japan’s Yamakura Dam reservoir. Strategically placed near Tokyo, the system boasts a 13.5-megawatt capacity, making it the biggest solar installation built on top of water to date (1)!

Capable of powering 4,700 homes, the panels will be installed on Hydrelio floating platforms created by Ciel et Terre. The plant is set to be activated in March 2016 (1). But why a floating plant? Well, unlike in the vast Santa Clarita Valley, land is very limited in Japan making it hard to find space for solar panels anywhere but in the water.

But, is it safe? We all know what happens when water meets electricity. But these floating plants are designed so that none of the electrical components touch the water. Top of the line insulation and waterproofing keep the panels and the wiring safe from moisture. However, these systems are NOT designed for the rough seas. They can only withstand the weather conditions prevalent on lakes and other inland water sources (1).

These systems do more than just provide electricity though. They also reduce evaporation by limiting the surface area of the water that is exposed to direct sunlight. Despite this added benefit, water-mounted solar costs more than ground or roof-mounted solar (1).

It’s safe to say with Santa Clarita’s ample roof space that Castaic Lake will remain solar-free. But, the Santa Clarita Valley and homes within it will continue to become more and more solar friendly, alleviating both the strain on the power grid and the strain on our wallets.


(1) http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/japan-to-build-worlds-biggest-floating-solar-farm


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