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How Japan is the world pioneer in solar floating capacity

How Japan is the world pioneer in solar floating capacity

Scaling up the ambitions of the world’s most successful corporations to reach 100% clean electricity by 2050

Protection of the atmosphere and natural capital

How do you maximize your solar energy production because you use all your land for farmland and housing? Answer: take it to the sea. That’s just what they’re doing in Japan. The first floating solar plant in the world was built in Japan, in the Aichi Prefecture in central Honshu. The country’s numerous freshwater lakes and rivers are now home to 73 of the world’s 100 biggest floating solar power plants and account for half of those 246 megawatts of solar energy.

Many small-scale plants are helping the country to kick-start the transition to localized local power generation that has been described by the World Economic Forum as the path to changing the world’s energy supply. The largest floating solar farm in Japan is located behind the Yamakura Dam in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. It occupies 18 hectares, can fuel almost 5,000 homes and saves more than 8,000 tons of CO2 a year.

Tailor made for Asia

Floating solar is especially well suited for Asia, where land is limited but there are several hydroelectric dams with developed transmission networks. China has just connected Anhui to the world’s largest floating solar farm, which will generate nearly 78,000 megawatts in its first year, enough to power 21,000 households. 

But Anhui’s record might not be long. Next year, South Korea is expected to complete what it claims will become the world’s biggest floating solar power station, delivering 102.5 megawatts, capable of supplying 35,000 households. Singapore has installed an offshore floating solar power plant in the Straits of Johor and Thailand is planning 16 floating solar plants in nine hydropower dams.


Top 10 Floating Solar Plants in the World

The system is relatively new to us. The first patents were released in 2008 and its advocates state that solar floating is up to 16% more effective than land-based systems. In addition to freeing up scarce land, floating solar panels often avoid the growth of algae, which can damage fish populations and slow down the rate of evaporation from reservoirs.

Jumping ahead

Global solar floating production rose 100-fold from 2014 to 2018. Soon, it could supply more power than traditional land-based systems. The speed is going to pick up. India recently unveiled plans to construct 10 gigawatts of solar floating power.

While its supporters claim that solar floating has a huge potential, opponents worry that it can damage aquatic environments by blocking sunlight. They also point out their susceptibility to poor weather. In 2017, the typhoon caused significant damage to the installation near Osaka.

In the upside, floating solar generated by hydroelectric dams has the ability to sustain power sources as water levels plunge. Experts claim it fits best where power grids are small. They assume that sub-Saharan Africa will be the next great beneficiary of the technology.