More Offshore Ideas: Floating Solar Panels

Everything is moving offshore these days. There's the massive potential of wind, then some ideas to float the turbines, and various ways to use tidal and wave power to produce energy... and now there's solar power.

A partnership between a French and an Israeli group aims to use industrial water basins and reservoirs as a platform for solar photovoltaic installations. Okay, so this isn't quite "offshore" in the way, say,  Cape Wind is, but it still involves shedding land-based requirements, and makes use of a space that otherwise was going unused. And the developers say that because these aren't natural lakes or the open sea, there isn't likely to be any local environmental impact of the installations.

A test site will soon launch in Cadarache, in France, and will run for nine months before the technology might be brought to the open market. The technology will make use of a cooling system involving the water sitting underneath the panels; this will allow cheap silicon cells to be used.

There is some concern that covering the water's surface with solar panels, even in an industrial, non-natural setting, could endanger plant and animal life in the water below. According to the developers, though, the panels will allow oxygen to penetrate the water as usual. Still, part of the testing phase will involve checks on the environmental impacts.

With space and land use concerns a constant problem for solar developers, this type of idea could prove invaluable. Others are out there, as well: "floating" takes on a new meeting in this idea out of Israel, involving helium balloons coated with solar cells.

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