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Solaris Synergy Floats Photovoltaic Panels

Credits: ©2010 Solaris Synergy

An Israeli company - Solaris Synergy - has developed a solar solution that could open up a vast surface area to gather energy – the sea. Major solar projects require huge areas of land to generate large amounts of power, and available land is becoming scarce. Nearly 100 percent of the world's solar energy systems are land-based. At the same time, most of the sun energy hitting the earth falls on water surfaces. As such, "solar-on-water" systems represent a potentially environmentally-friendly and economically beneficial opportunity for leveraging unutilized water surfaces across the globe – where more than three-quarters of the world’s surface is covered by water, providing a potentially enormous area for PVs. With that in mind, Solaris Synergy announced plans to build a large-scale floating concentrated photovoltaic array on open water. The company has already designed and built a 1kW unit that can float, but are gearing up for a bigger system. Some concerns about floating solar panels and PV systems on water include difficulty of maintenance and repair because engineers would have to travel by boat to perform routine maintenance. Should the panels be installed at sea or on calmer lakes? And what impact would they have on the environment? Solaris Synergy’s idea won an award at the Clean Tech Open IDEAS Competition, and the team is developing a 200 kW system in an Israeli water reservoir that will be installed later this year (as of November 2010).


Solaris Floating PVs

Nearly 100 percent of the world's solar energy systems are land-based, but at the same time, most of the sunlight hitting the earth falls on water surfaces. Solaris Synergy created floating PVs to harness the sun's energy on water. ©2010 Solaris Synergy

The Technology
According to Solaris, current CPV systems are typically designed for land-based applications, require high sunlight concentration levels, and are subject to very stringent requirements. Some of the challenges resulting from these factors (e.g. heat evacuation, precise optical tracking, ability to withstand wind load, cross-shadowing between individual elements) are usually addressed by deploying systems featuring costly designs and ineffective land-based configurations. The absence of effective cooling capabilities among these systems, however, leads to an increase in the working temperature of PV elements being utilized. In addition, these elements are exposed to 24-hour thermal cycles, which cause fatigue of the utilized semiconductor material (i.e. silicon), thereby resulting in reduced efficiency and an accelerated breakdown.

Solaris Synergy's medium-concentration F-CPV system is based on proven and patented evaporation cooling technology that keeps silicon PV elements at a low and stable temperature (~86 degrees F / 30 degrees C) around the clock. As a result, the system generates new opportunities in the utilization of these silicon elements by increasing their power generation efficiency by up to 20 percent, enhancing their reliability, and extending their lifespan.

Solaris lists advantages to what it calls its breakthrough Solaris Synergy system:

• Relaxed optical and mechanical specification design tolerances aenabling the use of inexpensive materials leading to lower amanufacturing and maintenance costs

• Near-maximum (>90 percent) solar field coverage enabling the production of amore electricity for a given area

• Easy scalability for medium-to-large-scale power generation

• Simple sun-tracking mechanism

• Enhanced stability to, and protection from, high winds


Solaris Synergy (Israel)