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Floating Solar Panels to be Installed in MA

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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According to recent reports, developers plan to install floating solar panels in Massachusetts ponds and reservoirs as a possible solution regarding concerns over space for clean energy development. The project, announced in August, is a joint venture between Boston-based BlueWave Solar and LakeTricity, an offshoot of industrial floating photovoltaics company Ciel & Terre.

“This is an opportunity to site solar a lot more responsibly going forward,” said BlueWave Principal and Head of Solar Development Mike Marsch in an interview. “We think it’s an incredibly elegant and responsible way to use land.”

These solar panels are being developed to float in human-made bodies of water such as storage ponds, water treatment plants, quarries and reservoirs in Massachusetts. The companies hope to, if the project is successful, install the “floatovoltaics” across the country.

“Massachusetts has been kind of this laboratory to develop these policies that end up getting propagated out to the rest of the country,” Marsch said.

BlueWave says that building was important in Massachusetts, “where building on man-made ponds and reservoirs solves land use problems and ensures no disruption to the state's terrestrial habitats while reducing energy costs and bringing clean energy to local businesses and residents.”

George Wissing, a Senior Project Developer for Laketricity, explained that the best sites for the floating panels:

  • Are at least four acres;
  • Are public waters or privately owned, commercial property;
  • Are not currently used for any swimming or boating; and
  • Have access to three-phase electric power.

“In space-constrained places, it’s a way to just get more photovoltaics on the grid,” Marsch said.

Cranberry farms are a property that could benefit from the technology, Wissing said. Massachusetts is reportedly the country’s second-largest producer of cranberries, with some 375 farms statewide.

Laketricity plans to contribute technology and on-the-ground experience, while BlueWave will share its extensive knowledge of the Massachusetts clean energy market and the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program (SMART).

The Ciel & Terre Hydrelio floating PV system consists of photovoltaic panels mounted on floating rows that interlock together and anchor to the shore. The company reports that they are made from recyclable HDPE and withstand long-term environmental hazards, such as wind, rain and snow.

“The panels are put together like a big LEGO set,” Wissing said. “You basically build a floating solar island a row at a time.”

The plastics used for the floating solar have been certified to be drinking-water safe in the United Kingdom. The water also helps cool the panels, increasing efficiency by as much as 10%, Wissing said. 

BlueWave and LakeTricity have identified locations with strong potential for the projects and have begun to reach out to the owners and these sites about possible development. They are not yet ready to release any details about these locations, but could be ready to begin construction within two years, Marsch said. 

Moving Towards Solar Energy

Massachusetts announced a proposed bill in March that would require solar roofs on new residential and commercial buildings. The Solar Neighborhoods Act was reportedly filed at the beginning of the month, with a companion bill filed in the Senate.

Bill mandates included:

  • All new buildings will be built “solar-ready,” or able to accommodate rooftop solar panels. The Department of Energy Resources will develop amendments to the state building code ensuring that roofs are strong enough to support solar panels, available roof space is maximized and buildings can accommodate the necessary electrical infrastructure;
  • Rooftop solar panels must be installed on new buildings at the time of construction, including single-family homes, apartment buildings and commercial buildings;
  • For single-family homes, the solar energy system must produce enough electricity on an annual basis to meet 80% of the average demand for similar houses;
  • For other buildings, DOER will establish minimum requirements for the size of solar energy systems; and
  • Buildings may be exempted from solar roof requirements if the roof is too shaded, if a solar hot water system or other renewable energy technology is installed or if the building has a green roof. DOER can also grant exemptions to affordable housing developments.

In July, the U.S. Energy Information Administration issued an independent statistics and analysis report, revealing that large-scale U.S. solar capacity growth is expected to exceed wind growth for the first time in its history.

The Short-Term Energy Outlook document projects that solar photovoltaic generating energy will surpass wind generated energy sometime next year. According to the EIA, the solar capacity growth in the forecast reflects various state and federal policies that support renewable energy.

Shortly after this report, the U.S. Department of Energy also issued a report on the Biden Administration’s solar policies, projecting that solar power could represent 40% of the nation’s electrical generation by 2035. Large-scale solar decarbonization of the electricity sector then accounted for 3%.

According to preliminary results of an upcoming analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for solar to achieve 40% of electrical generation by 2035, solar deployment in the U.S. would have to accelerate to three to four times faster than its current rate by 2030.

Solar is already reported to be the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the nation, having grown from 2.5 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2010 to over 100 GW today. 


Tagged categories: BlueWave; Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Green Infrastructure; Laketricity; NA; North America; Photovoltaic coatings; Program/Project Management; Solar energy

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