Developer Pursues Floating Solar Projects in US

Solar Power Inc., a renewable-energy developer backed by China’s LDK Solar Co., is joining with Aqua Clean Energy to develop floating solar projects in the U.S. and Mexico.

The joint venture would put solar panels on platforms in reservoirs, quarry lakes, irrigation canals and tailing ponds, Shanghai-based Solar Power said in a statement Thursday. The joint venture is considering projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico.

In addition to the environmental benefits of clean power, the platforms will reduce water evaporation and slow algae growth, Solar Power said. The two companies have identified more than 50 megawatts of potential projects.

“This technology not only generates clean solar power energy, but also serves to conserve water in critically dry regions like the southwestern U.S. and California in particular, which is now experiencing its fourth consecutive year of drought,” Peng Xiaofeng, chairman of SPI, said in the statement.

Jacqueline Lilinshtein, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said the concept may have a limited market appeal and only a small impact on water conservation.

“Unless the technology offers significant savings in capital expenditures or increases output, it will likely remain a niche product,” Lilinshtein said Thursday in an e-mail. “Any water savings will be a drop in a bucket, especially in places such as California, which is enduring one of the worst droughts in its recent history.”

California’s reservoirs are less than half full after record-low rain and snowfall. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to unveil emergency legislation Thursday that’s intended to help manage the water shortage.

Solar installations in the U.S. this year may reach almost 9 gigawatts, while global demand is expected to rise 23 percent to more than 58 gigawatts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Last year, about 6.3 gigawatts were added in the U.S.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

Lead image: Reservoir. Credit: Shutterstock.

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