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Construction starts on world’s largest floating solar farm

Construction starts this month on the world’s largest floating solar farm in Japan.

The photovoltaic (PV) installation is being developed by Japanese outfit Kyocera TCL Solar, using technology devised by French firm Ciel et Terre.

The 1.7 MW plant at Nishihira Pond, a reservoir in Kato City, will become the world’s largest solar power generating system installed on water, according to the developer. Another 1.2 MW scheme is being built at nearby Higashihira Pond.

The floating solar farms will be built Ciel et Terre’s Hydrelio concept, a modular system for joining together PV panels. A basic module is formed from two blow-moulded floats made with HDPE (high-density polythene) plastic. One float supports the solar panel and the other provides a tab connection to other floats, and also provides maintenance access. The floats are then joined together to form solar ‘islands’, using connection pins.

The floating farms use various anchoring systems, depending on the characteristic of each site. They can be anchored to the banks or to a steel anchor attached to the lake bed.

Ciel et Terre, which has been running a pilot project in the south of France since February 2011, says the system is best suited for unused stretches of water, such as reservoirs.

Floating solar farm

Ciel et Terre has operated a pilot floating solar farm in France since 2011.

It claims Hydrelio is wind resistant up to 190km/h and can withstand changes in water level of up to 10m. The firm also says that the cooling effect of water on the PV panels means Hydrelio-based solar farms produce more energy than land-based systems.

Ciel et Terre will be responsible for the supply of floating solar platforms as well as technical input for installing the farms in Kato City.

Kyocera TCL Solar was established by PV supplier Kyocera and financer Century Tokyo to construct and operate large scale solar power plants in Japan. The venture aims to benefit from the country’s feed-in tariff system, which commenced in July 2012. It believes Japan is ideally suited to the development of floating solar farms, given a shortage of land and an abundance of reservoirs and other water surfaces.

Kyocera TCL Solar plans to develop floating installations for reservoirs in the country totalling approximately 60 MW by next March.

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