It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
Morning clouds. Mild.
money, technologies are at their best if they are simple, easily accessible,
environmentally sustainable and affordable. If, in addition, they offer
solutions to more than one problem at a time, so much the better.
kind of technology that fits the bill on all of these counts and which is
growing in popularity around the world is the idea of generating electricity
from photovoltaic solar panels floating on water. What’s more, it appears to be
a perfect fit for South African conditions and needs.
it tends to be cheaper to mount solar panels on dry land, putting them on water
comes with several very attractive benefits. Not only do ‘floatovoltaic’
systems produce low-carbon renewable energy, they can also help with an
increasingly vexing problem on a warming planet: evaporation from the
reservoirs that supply us with water for drinking, sanitation and farming.
rafts of solar panels on sections of our dams would reduce the large amounts of
water that simply dissipates into thin air every year, while at the same time
helping to control damaging algal blooms without the need to use toxic
chemicals. Some experts estimate that in hot regions, floating solar farms
could cut evaporation from dams by as much as 90%.
installations would only occupy previously ‘unused’ space without putting undue
pressure on natural ecosystems or competing for land required for other uses,
including agriculture. One particularly innovative type of location is on
municipal wastewater treatment basins.
added bonus, photovoltaic panels that float on water outperform their
counterparts mounted on the ground or rooftops. The former may be over 50% more
effective at turning sunlight into electricity because the body of water on
which they drift provides excellent cooling and a steady temperature, allowing
the panels to work at greater efficiency as well as extending their lifespan.
technology only requires relatively minor adjustments to land-based solar panel
arrays and is already being used successfully in a number of countries,
including France, Italy, India and Korea.
Balbina hydroelectric dam only operates at a much reduced power capacity these
days, but now there are plans to install a huge 300 megawatt floating solar
farm on its waters, while in California’s Sonora County, a new 12.5 megawatt
plant is expected to come online this year, supplying enough electricity for
some 3000 local households.
UK, the largest floating solar power plant is currently under construction on
the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton-on-Thames on the outskirts of
London. A similar one is being built near Manchester.
global leaders in floatovoltaic electricity generation are the Japanese. Two
large installations near Kato city are already fully operational. A much larger
power station on the Yamakura dam near Tokyo is slated for completion in early
2018. Covering an area of around 180,000 square metres, its more than 50,000
solar panels are expected to provide enough electricity for nearly 5000 homes.
all, this approach to producing electricity seems to be a perfect fit for a
country like South Africa with plenty of sunshine and a need to lower the amount
of water we lose to evaporation from our dams and reservoirs.
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