Floating photovoltaics (FPV) are PV power plants where the modules are mounted on floating buoys on water. These enable the expansion of solar power generation capacity without the need for new land. According to a study by Fraunhofer ISE, flooded former opencast lignite mines – there are around 500 in Germany alone – offer a technical potential of about 26 GWp of installed capacity, assuming an occupancy of 0.6 MWp/ha.
Fraunhofer ISE, RWE Renewables and Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg aim to further develop the technology together with other partners - Volta Solar, Heckert Solar GmbH, VDE Renewables GmbH - in the research project “PV2Float”, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
The project is focused on FPV technology development in terms of cost reduction, integration into spatial planning and sustainable implementation on a megawatt scale.
A suitable open-cast lake is currently being selected for the project. Four floating installations with different system designs and a reference installation on land with a total output of about 150 kilowatts are then subjected to extensive practical testing over a three-year period. The power plants installed and tested in this project form an important basis for the research work, with which a precise analysis of the technical requirements, economic viability and practicality, social acceptance, and ecological effects of FPVs – focused on conditions in Germany – will be carried out.
The role of the quality assurance company VDE Renewables in PV2Float is to evaluate the power plant concepts developed as part of the project in terms of compliance with standards and electrical safety regulations. The company shall also be inspecting the plants after construction.
Boris Farnung, Global Head of Power Plants and Systems at VDE Renewables, said, “We are proud to contribute to this highly interesting research project on floating PV systems. The technology and best practices that will be developed here could potentially have an immense impact on the PV generation capacity in Germany – and shared globally. VDE looks forward to working with our project partners on the PV2Float test bed.”