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Research Group to Begin Testing Floating Photovoltaic Systems

August 19, 2021 by Ahmad Ezzeddine

RWE, Fraunhofer ISE, and BTU are joining to perform long-term tests on new photovoltaic system designs in which the PV panels swim above water.

RWE Renewables, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy, and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg have 3 years to test and develop new designs for floating photovoltaic systems within the PV2Float project.

Example of a possible system design for floating PV. In the PV2Float project, several different designs and substructures are implemented on an open pit lake. Image courtesy of Fraunhofer ISE


The Floating PV Systems

A floating PV system, as the name points out, is a set of photovoltaic panels installed above a water surface. This technology is not yet available but could be a great replacement for the classical ground-mounted PV system designs. A possible design is having PV models above membranes or floats which in their turn are placed on the water surface.


The Benefits of Floating PV systems

Floating PV systems and ground-mounted PV systems have the same purpose, the potential to generate power from a clean source of energy. Therefore protecting the climate and ensuring green energy. The floating PV system has an advantage over other photovoltaic system designs, it doesn’t take land areas. The fact that the earth has a large water surface which is mostly unused. And the fact that land surfaces could be used in different ways in contrast with a lot of water surfaces, closed or open, lights up the importance of designing floating PV systems. 

Open-pit lakes could be a great application of floating PV systems. In Germany, 500 open cast mines ceased operations with no usages of the pit lakes formed from these landmines. Floating PV systems could be a new application for these former landmines which according to Fraunhofer ISE, could generate up to a mid-double digit gigawatt range.


The Project 

The research teams aim to fulfill technical requirements for the project, ecological effects of the design, economic efficiency study, and acceptance of the technology.

RWE is responsible for selecting the location and studying the floating PV market. 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.”

Volta solar is going to design demonstration PV plants with a total power of 150 Kilowatts. The PV modules concepts will be designed by Heckert Solar.VDE Renewables is responsible for safety standards. Therefore, it will be evaluating the developed power plant concepts and inspecting the plants after construction. 

BTU is responsible for doing the necessary ecological studies. Dr. Dieter Leßmann of the Faculty of Water Protection at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg explains: “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.”

Fraunhofer ISE will develop PV modules and simulation modules, develop the regulatory framework for floating PV plants, perform durability tests needed, develop the procedure for the participation of local stakeholders, and investigate economic viability.

The PV2Float project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.