Limited Time Only! The Worlds Largest Floating Solar Farm

Kristen Sharp's picture
Kristen Sharp
April 8, 2016

The largest floating solar farm in the world is nearing completion. However, once the benefits of this green technology are discovered, solar farms will be utilized all over the world.

Lightsource’s floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir.
Lightsource’s floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir.
Credit: News OK

After five years of planning, the world's largest floating solar farm has reached its completion on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton-on-Thames in March 2016. This six million pound solar farm has 23,000 solar panels! The panels only cover about ten percent of the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir. The reservoir is overseen by Thames Water, the while the floating solar farm is backed and managed by Lightsource, a solar energy company. The solar farm will provide 100% of the electricity needed to run the Walton on Thames water treatment plant.

With the capability to create enough electricity to “power the utility's local water treatment plants for decades,” Lightsource will provide about 10 million people on the southeast side of England with clean drinking water.

Just how big is the world's largest floating solar farm? According to BBC News, the floating solar farm in London is 57,500 sq m in size and will yield 5.8 million kilowatt hours every year.

“This will be the biggest floating solar farm in the world for a time - others are under construction. We are leading the way, but we hope that others will follow, in the UK and abroad,” says Angus Berry, the energy manager for Thames Water. Rather than compete to have the first and only solar farm in the world, the goal in creating this farm is to provide the best efficient energy source for their community while motivating other countries to build their own floating solar farm.

This video above provides a glimpse of the floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir, and explains the size and capabilities of the solar farm.

Benefits of a Floating Solar Farm

· Covers Less Land: One of the obvious benefits to placing solar farms on water is that the solar farms will not cover large amounts of land. For conservatives, taking up land with multiple solar farms can be a serious concern. According to Make Wealth History, conservatives “think they’re ugly and want no more of them.”  

· Keeps Water Safe: Thanks to floating solar farms, the water remains safe from algae growth.

· No Real Estate Cost: According to the Green World Investor, “they save expensive real estate as they are built on industrial water bodies like wastewater treatment plants,cooling facilities in factories and power plants etc.”

· Cool and Effective: The water acts as a cooling agent for the solar panels which helps them to be more effective than if the solar farm were on land.  The solar farm also keeps the water temperature down.

· Floating Solar Farm Brings No Harm: Berry says that the solar farm floating will not harm the ecosystem as the solar panels only cover six percent of the reservoir.

· Simple and Cost-effective: Creating floating solar farms are simple and cost-effective.According to Sebastian Anthony of, “You build a floating platform, anchor it in place, and then put some solar panels on top.” Easy enough. Additionally, in the UK, “planning permission” is not required for solar farms floating on reservoirs. Why not take advantage of such an exciting, cheap, easy, and rewarding opportunity?

While London is the frontrunner for solar farming, it is not the only place that recognizes the benefits of this innovative green technology.   

A Few Cons of Solar Farming

· Expensive Installation: This more advanced green technology also requires a particular and specialized installation process.

· Higher Transmission Cost: Since the underwater cable must be crafted to transfer power from water to land, floating solar farms have high transmission costs.

· More Work Required: Floating solar farms require more upkeep and maintenance, which will also cost more money.

Overall, the basic downfall is that placing solar farms on water is more expensive. However, since the positives outweigh the negatives, floating solar farms have become the answer.

What Other Solar Farms are in the Works?

In Manchester, United Utilities is building a similar floating solar farm for 3.5 million pounds. Manchester's farm will only have 12,000 panels. Altogether, the panels will be about 45,500 sq m in size.

Similarly, Japan is in the process of creating their own floating solar farm by 2018. Due to Japan's shortage of land, solar farming is an added benefit that utilizes surrounding bodies of water to create electricity. Once completed, Japan’s solar farm is projected to equip about 5,000 homes with electricity and will sit atop a reservoir in Japan's Chiba prefecture at 13.7MW, more than twice the size of Lightsource’s. Until then, Thames Water and Lightsource can boast the world's largest floating solar farm for at least two years.  

Floating solar farms are likely to become more popular, as they are more favorable and efficient than land solar farms. As Berry of Thames Water stated, the panels will not harm the environment. Placing solar farms on water is the future of solar power.   



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