India signs on to floating solar energy power plant (w/ video)

March 30, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
0.28 scale aluminium prototype

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a country where nearly 40 percent of households have no electricity, any new advancement that will help bring power to the world’s second most populous nation, must be met with celebration and open arms.

Tata Power, subsidiary, of Indian giant Tata Group, has announced a partnership with Sunengy, an Australian company that specializes in Liquid Solar Array (LSA) technology, to build a floating solar array power plant in an as yet to be announced location somewhere in .

The power plant is comprised of a rectangular grid upon which sit rows and columns of movable lightweight plastic lenses that focus incoming sunlight onto a small panel of photovoltaic cells. The lenses can be programmed to follow the sun in tandem as it moves across the sky, thus taking full advantage of available sunlight. They lenses can also be made to slide beneath the waves when bad weather threatens, thus preventing damage from high winds or hail. The grid is in essence a floating raft that can be anchored in place wherever there is available water.

Phil Connor, Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of Sunengy, and also the inventor of the LSA, has said that he believes India is the best possible proving ground for his LSA technology and feels that his floating might best be suited to placement just behind hydro-electric dams, where he suggests they might serve as “giant batteries,” effectively doubling capacity at a site while taking up no additional land space.

In addition to the benefit of not having to give up land to provide space for the LSA, its installation and maintenance costs are expected to be far lower than for traditional power plants, including land based solar farms. This is due to the absence of high strength structures to support the solar arrays, and to the reduced amount of materials in each component, i.e. less silicone because the cells can be water cooled on a continuous basis. The initial plant project in India is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1 million, with a projected start date of August of 2011.

The only dark cloud on this otherwise bright project is the possibility of damage due to cyclones if water levels rise to the extent that an entire plant could be ripped from its moorings; though Sunengy claims their components are cyclone proof; as yet, that claim has not been tested.

Explore further: Ground broken on Nevada solar plant

More information: sunengy.com/

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11 comments

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Husky
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2011
the water cooling is a nice feat, one other possible advantage i can think of reduced dust covering / cleaning requirements of the cells/lenses opposed to dessert based solar wich usually has plenty of sunlight but a lot of clogging sand/dust come with it and cleaning water us often scarce in those areas, Perhaps the presence of water can even be further capitalized upon by using beta type stirling engine where the hot chamber would be above water and heated by the fresnel lens or floating parabolic hulls and the cold chamber underwater to create an increaded heat-difference, it would be nice if shapechanging metals or fluid expansion differentials be somehow implemented to line up the fresenel lens and track the sun automatically by insteal of processors, gears and engines, using the heat of the sun itselve/physics much like flowers do!
lifewebb
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2011
Sounds good. One question: What kind of pollution from the materials of this system could we expect, both from its construction and from its aging or disposal? There is no mention of what is used to make this system.
antialias
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2011
of the cells/lenses opposed to dessert based solar wich usually has plenty of sunlight but a lot of clogging sand/dust come with it

Actually Siemens proposed a solution to that which is suprisingly cheap and efficient: Cover the power plant with a transparent, inflatable hull. The slightly higher pressure inside keeps all the dust out (just like in clean rooms or pressurized HAZMAT suits). The hull can be collapsed (by just letting the pressure equalize) and so covers the cells/arrays when a storm or really bad weather threatens.

But I like the water based approach. The cooling is taken care of and the real estate cost should be low. Could be deployed in lakes as well which are virtually proof against high waves. (and high waves usually occur when the weather is bad - that's when the solar power plant won't produce peak output, anyways)
zevkirsh
3 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2011
this is doomed except for extreme niche demand. it is doomed for the same reason the largest ever commercial attempt at harvesting wavepower (done by spain) was a miserable failure despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent.

salt water is corrosive, water waves destroy equipment, and the water prevents cheap maintenance, and upgrades. anyone investing in this is being duped, most likely the indian treasury.
PJW
5 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2011
Responding to zevkirsh: Better to have all the facts before being so judgmental. LSA is not for use in the open ocean, but in freshwater, hydro and village dams. Wave attenuation is not at all difficult to deal with in these environments. Being in water enhances some elements of maintenance especially automated self cleaning, each LSA unit will weigh around 16kg and can easily be removed and replaced or upgraded (if required) via a specifically designed maintenance craft. It took 2 1/2 years of technical and commercial R&D to secure the deal with Tata Power and no Indian govt funds have been used; let's try and be more open to viable, left field approaches. If we are to help alleviate poverty in the world through "empowering" marginalised communities we need to look to industry for solutions. Ultimately it will be the industrious people of the world not the governments that will make this happen. Kind regards Peter Wakeman, Chairman Sunengy Australia.
El_Nose
not rated yet Mar 30, 2011
yeah on that dust issue --- its all well and good as long as the salt deposits don't get to big.... I have had a salt water aquarium, ocean water splashing on a hot solar panal is just gonna leave an aboundance of salt deposits.... but i am sure they have a work around.
soulman
1 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
Nice approach, but how irksome is this quote from the article:
reduced amount of materials in each component, i.e. less silicone because the cells can be water cooled on a continuous basis.

SiliconE? Really?
Husky
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
salt water definately not good, but daisychain it behind a fresh water dam would be very sensible as the hydroenergetic dam is already connected to the grid. The combination could also be used to smooth out spikes and lows in availabillity/demand in a synergistic way, if there is no sunshine but too much water in the lake (like say monsoon) you flush/use the water, if the water supply on the other hand is very low and sunshine is abundant, you save on the water and meet the demand with solar, intelligent software could be used to tune/dial in the right mix of both resources to make optimal use
zuggerjack
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
This awesome floating solar power system makes all the sense in the world to supplement conventional energy sources around the world. I believe it was first promoted in a book called Sunstroke by David Kagan that described different ways to harness solar power. Outstanding article. Thanks.
antialias
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
If the lenses are low cost enough (as I feel they could be) then it would even make sense in salt water. Could even go so far as to make the frme flexible and harvest wave energy, too.
- Solar during nice/calm weather
- Waves during inclement weather

= less variability in output.
TAz00
not rated yet Mar 31, 2011
LSA is a hallucinogenic. fyi

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