Hydro-Solar? How floating solar farms could revolutionize the energy market

A new study shows that covering reservoirs and canals with floating solar panels could solve key problems.

Just Above the Surface
Over the last decade, the large increase in solar investments has begun to create a new set of problems for the solar market. One of the most immediate problems is simply: where can we build all these new solar farms? Given that efficient solar generation requires large, relatively flat areas, it can be expensive and time consuming to clear and level a big enough area.

However, a recent study in the scientific journal Nature Sustainability has proposed an exciting and effective solution: floating them on reservoirs.

The authors of this new study argue that by using existing technologies, covering 30% of the world’s reservoirs with floating solar panels could generate nearly 10,000 terawatt hours of power per year. That’s more than double the amount of energy currently generated by the United States every year.

Called “floatovoltaics” (a combination of float and photovoltaic), this new idea has the potential to solve a number of key problems beyond power generation. With droughts increasing in both number and intensity, covering the surface of many of the world’s reservoirs would also help prevent evaporation and thereby conserve water. Additionally, these floatovoltaic systems could help supplement existing hydro-electric forms of power generation to make them more reliable and more sustainable.

A Forward-Looking Industry
But we know what you’re thinking: “What if we don’t have a reservoir in our backyard?”

This is obviously not a solution that will work for every kind of solar project. But the fact is that the solar industry is geared toward innovation in a way that traditional energy industries are not. New ideas and new technologies are continually showing that solar power is no longer just the energy of the future; it’s the energy of the present.


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