Italian engineer invents floating solar panels

Feb 22, 2012 by Sonia Logre
Photovoltaic panels floats on the surface of the lake of Colignola, in a village near Pisa, on January 11. While the water keeps the panels at low temperatures, reflectors are positioned to maximise solar capture at different times of day, making it more efficient than a traditional installation

Rays of the winter sun bounce off gleaming mirrors on the tiny lake of Colignola in Italy, where engineers have built a cost-effective prototype for floating, rotating solar panels.

"You are standing on a photovoltaic floating plant which tracks the sun, it's the first platform of its kind in the world!" said Marco Rosa-Clot, a professor at Florence University, proudly showing off his new project.

Rosa-Clot and his team say they are revolutionising and that their floating flower-petal-like panels soaking up the Tuscan sun have already attracted a lot of interest from international buyers.

Standard on buildings or in fields have been criticised for taking up valuable , being unsightly and losing energy through overheating -- issues the floating plants would resolve.

The Floating Tracking Cooling Concentrator (FTCC) system is designed to exploit unused areas of artificial reservoirs or disused quarries.

While the water keeps the panels at low temperatures, reflectors are positioned to maximise solar capture at different times of day, making it more efficient than a traditional installation, Rosa-Clot said.

The head of Scintec, a small family business which produces a variety of and industrial devices, Rosa-Clot said the set up on the lake near Pisa, Tuscany, was a model of efficiency.

"It's a small-scale design, 30 kilowatts, which would suffice for a dozen or so families. The standard is set at 3kW per apartment," he said.

Marco Rosa-Clot (R) and his team members, Paolo Rosa-Clot (C) and Raniero Cazzaniga, stand on a photovoltaic floating plant on the lake of Colignola in Tuscany on January 11. The system is designed to exploit unused areas of artificial reservoirs or disused quarries.

At an estimated price of around 1,600 euros per kW including installation, a plant the size of Colignola could cost some 48,000 euros ($63,000).

Scintec says its system costs 20 percent less than ground-based structures.

The flat panels are winged by reflectors and sit on raft-like structures which are anchored to the lake bed with a pylon.

Decked out in jeans and jacket, the engineer explained the benefit that a place like sun-kissed with its 75 square kilometres (29 square miles) of artificial reservoirs and lakes could draw from the system.

"If we covered just 10 percent of that area with floating photovoltaic panels, we would have one gigawatt of power installed," he said -- enough to power 10 million 100-watt light bulbs.

Engineer Raniero Cazzaniga, who works on the project, said that some people think classic solar installations are spoiling the landscape.

"Our system is designed for low-lying quarries. The installation is only about a metre (three feet) high and usually you can't see it until you get to the water's edge. It is not at all intrusive," he said.

Their cost-efficient project has sparked international interest.

Rosa-Clot said: "Reactions from abroad have been very positive. Some Koreans came to Pisa to see us and we signed a three-year contract giving them a license to build this sort of installation in South Korea."

The Korean company Techwin has built a floating photovoltaic plant using the FTCC technology, and in Italy the Terra Moretti group has installed one on an irrigation reservoir at its winery near Livorno.

Rosa-Clot and his team are in talks with "Germans, French and Italian companies" hoping to stay ahead of the curve on water-based solar energy.

"There is no miraculous solution to the energy problem," he said. "Our project will make it possible to have a far greater number of photovoltaic installations at an ever lower cost."

Explore further: Low-cost, hydrogen-powered forklifts with rapid refueling, zero emissions coming soon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High-efficiency solar power that floats in water

Apr 25, 2011

Sometimes you encounter an idea so seemingly brilliant you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. OK, here goes: Utility-grade "concentrating" solar power ... in water. You're not applauding - what's going on?

UQ solar array reaches milestone

Apr 07, 2011

The University of Queensland's $7.75 million solar power system at St Lucia in Brisbane has reached a milestone, with installation completed on one of the project's most visible components.

Willis Tower goes solar

Mar 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Do you know the Sears Tower? No, no you don't because for some time now it has been going by the much less famous name of the Willis Tower. While that bit of information may not be news to ...

Solar panels keep buildings cool

Jul 18, 2011

Those solar panels on top of your roof aren't just providing clean power; they are cooling your house, or your workplace, too, according to a team of researchers led by Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental ...

Recommended for you

Ikea buys wind farm in Illinois

Apr 15, 2014

These days, Ikea is assembling more than just furniture. About 150 miles south of Chicago in Vermilion County, Ill., the home goods giant is building a wind farm large enough to ensure that its stores will never have to buy ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

Apr 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

Apr 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

infinit_energy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2012
Great solution. All that fresh water surface space lies unused.
Instead of building a 1000Gw central nuclear power plant better build lots of small distributed plants ( solar, wind, thermal, hydro, etc)and never worry about fuel.
I am sure some people will find something to protest about this project soon.
StarGazer2011
2.6 / 5 (7) Feb 22, 2012
i wonder how the water plants will like all their sunlight being stolen? oh i forgot, nobody in the renewables industry cares about the evironment, just the climate :)
@infinit_energy: sure you dont have to worry about fuel, except to transport all the maintenance crews to fix a distributed power system. I wonder what the math looks like on that...
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 22, 2012
As long as only a smal percentage of a lake is covered there will probably be no problem. The only potential issue I could find is that it transfers heat into the lake (possibly leading to less oxygen retention or some sort of algal bloom).
But that shouldn't be much of a problem since it's only intermittent and and a higher temperature during the day also means a bigger temperature differential during the night (i.e. more rapid cooling) - so the overall temperature shouldn't be affected too much.

i wonder how the water plants will like all their sunlight being stolen?

Put it inthe midle of the lake where water depth is so deep that not much plantlife exists on the bottom, anyways (at least no photosynthetic plant life)

We should have these kinds of mobile power plants all over the place (e.g. on unused fields during wintertime, along highways, ... )

Pump hydro storage power plant with solar floating on top - things don't get any better than that.
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 22, 2012
"If we covered just 10 percent of that area with floating photovoltaic panels, we would have one gigawatt of power installed," he said -- enough to power 10 million 100-watt light bulbs.


One gigawatt of power is a meaningless figure unless you include exactly when it is available and for how long. Homes don't heat and kettles don't boil on sunlight already gone down for the day.

What is the real capacity factor of the installation? That's the most important figure to know, because for solar energy in general it can be as low as 7% of the nameplate figures, like in Germany.
RealScience
not rated yet Feb 22, 2012
These folks are far from the first to do this - Pyron and a few others have already prototyped this for CPV, where the easy tracking is even more important.

@Stargazer - good marks for ironic humor, but actually the area needed is quite small. And in areas where hydroelectric production is limited by water (most dams in sunny areas), this also makes great use of underutilized transmission infrastructure.
rsklyar
1 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2012
Lets suppose that this is true McCoy. Because previously united research gang from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Joint Research Centre (JRC), universities of Ferrara and Genova with a leading bandit at Northwestern University has successfully completed its sequential plagiaristic enterprise at http://issuu.com/...saivaldi

More news stories

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...