MBRCGI Websites
UAE Innovates
Edge of Government

Small US City Sets Example for Floating Solar

9 minute read
Due to exclusive land use, energy distribution and heat dispersion, the municipality of Cohoes, a small city in Albany, New York, has realised that its conventional solar plants will come to a standstill and floating solar is a solution to many problems. Hence, the city has embarked on an innovative pilot project that has made a big splash in the US.
Share this content

Add to Favorite ♡ 0

Due to exclusive land use, energy distribution and heat dispersion, the municipality of Cohoes, a small city in Albany, New York, has realised that its conventional solar plants will come to a standstill and floating solar is a solution to many problems. Hence, the city has embarked on an innovative pilot project that has made a big splash in the US.

With the approaching depletion of fossil fuels in many countries and the exacerbation of environmental concerns, the world is turning more and more to alternative energy resources. While solar appears to be a major energy source that humanity has high hopes for, especially that it’s the cheapest among renewable electricity sources, its plants are less energy-dense, meaning they produce less energy per unit volume and require more land, compared to fossil fuels for instance. Producing a single watt of electricity in a traditional solar farm requires much more land than that required for producing the same watt from fossil fuels, and natural gas is about 80 times more energy dense than solar.

In light of this paradox, and the fact that two-thirds of our planet is covered by water, ‘floatovoltaics’ have been a global trend. They are mounted on structures that float on bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, beach ponds, reservoirs, dams, or even offshore waters. In the US particularly, floating solar has become an increasingly popular option. It has been extensively used by the US military, which has deployed a floating solar array in North Carolina, home of the country’s largest domestic military base. Yet, ‘floatovoltaics’ have not yet grabbed mainstream attention in the US, making up only 2 percent of the country’s solar installations.

The extensive use of land, however, is a big disadvantage for Cohoes, whose area is less than 11 square kilometres. With a population of 18,000 people, mostly workers, Cohoes uses solar energy harvested from conventional photovoltaic cells across its limited land. Residents perceive the vast arrays of solar panels as a pest that gnaws at their arable land and distorts its natural beauty, while decreasing property prices.

Hence, it was logical for Cohoes municipality to consider floatovoltaics, which can solve several of the problems associated with conventional solar energy: exclusive land use, energy distribution, and heat dispersion. The promising tech may also help with hydrological regulation in canals, reservoirs, and draught-threatened natural bodies of water. The city studied the feasibility of installing a floating solar array on its water reservoir, based on a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report.

The first US city to take such a step, Cohoes has faith in its 3.2 MWdc Floating Solar demonstration project, which will cost of $5.9 million. Seeking funding, the city has explained that providing grants to municipalities — as an alternative option to current tax credits for private investments — for floating solar installations would incentivise municipalities to invest in their own energy infrastructure in a sustainable way.

The project, to be launched in 2024/2025, has gained traction, both technology and funding-wise, and inspired a nationwide movement to introduce legislation for federal support of researching and launching the arrays across the nation’s 24,000 reservoirs, paving the way for other municipalities to follow suit.

Estimated to produce over four million KWHrs in year one, the installation will be located in the city's water filtration plant, a secured site of 14 acres, with a water tank of 10 acres, which is more than enough space. Studies have shown that 60% of the Cohoes reservoir's capacity will be sufficient to generate 100% of the municipal facilities’ energy demand, leaving 40% to address additional economic/environmental justice issues within the city’s community.

Despite the enthusiasm, floating solar comes with drawbacks. For plants intended to last up to 25 to 30 years, equipment corrosion can reduce their durability and require more maintenance, especially in waters with high salt levels. Floatovoltaics are also more capital intensive, as their initial installation cost rises between 10 and 15 percent compared to their ground counterparts. The panels essentially sit on a sort of raft that’s tethered to the bottom of the body of water. Moreover, floating solar still suffers from many of the intermittency issues that land installations suffer; energy only when the sun is out and disparate timing in stressing power grids.

Nevertheless, compared to land-based photovoltaics, floating solar may be more affordable in the long run and more economically advantageous over time. Floatovoltaics come with unique benefits too: they reduce the need for land, and under certain conditions, produce more energy than conventional solar when exposed to the same amount of sunlight, according to studies.



Subscribe to Ibtekr to stay updated on the latest government initiatives, courses, tools and innovations
Register Now
Subscribe to Ibtekr’s Newsletter
Innovators’ Mailing List
Our newsletter reaches more than 30,000 innovators from around the world! Stay up to date with innovations from across fields of practice in the public sector.
Subscription Form (en)
More from Ibtekr

Transforming Urban Freight: Pioneering Sustainable Solutions for Greener Cities

In response to the growing environmental concerns associated with urban freight, cities, including Rosario, Bogotá, Kochi, Shimla, and Panaji, are proactively engaging in initiatives involving smart technology, forward-thinking urban planning, the promotion of sustainable practices, strategic policy development, and the cultivation of collaborations with the private sector. These collective endeavors are geared toward shaping a more sustainable future.

 · · 5 June 2024

Philippines Takes on Circular Economy Measures to Tackle Plastic Waste

The Philippines is facing a serious pollution crisis due to plastic waste that threatens its seas, tourism, and the livelihoods of its people. With the support of international organizations, programs have been developed to collect and recycle plastic bottles, and mobile centers have been deployed to receive waste from residents in exchange for incentives that encourage them to adopt a circular economy approach.

 · · 5 June 2024

Canadian City Determined to Reduce Food Waste

To address the interplay between climate change and food waste, the Canadian region of Guelph-Wellington has launched two initiatives to establish circularity in the overall system. Through diverse initiatives such as transforming food waste into valuable resources, recycling, banning the burial of organic waste, and enhancing collaboration for effective management.

 · · 5 June 2024

Managing Water Crisis: Lessons from Cape Town's Drought Experience

Extensive efforts are made by big cities to plan and invest in ensuring the provision of the most crucial natural resource, which is water, especially in the face of climate change challenges that can adversely affect the availability of water in urban areas in two ways. It exacerbates water scarcity and contributes to accelerating population growth in cities due to the increasing migration of rural residents to cities, as environmental conditions suitable for agriculture decline in certain areas. In this context, Cape Town stands as a prominent case worthy of study in facing this challenge.

 · · 8 May 2024

Early Warning Systems: Lessons from Japan and China for Resilience against Natural Disasters

With the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters worldwide over the past few decades, particularly those directly linked to climate change, the United Nations has launched the "Early Warning for All" initiative as a framework to ensure the protection of every individual through the deployment of early warning systems by the end of 2027. As efforts converge on formulating plans and addressing the significant challenges that this initiative will face, there are innovative and advanced experiences that have proven successful in both Japan and China in this field. These experiences can contribute to designing global early warning strategies and systems, further supporting the United Nations initiative or similar initiatives with best practices.

 · · 8 May 2024
1 2 3 80