1. Sustainability Problem: Energy
As the American population has steadily increased over the past century, so too has the country’s energy demand. In 2020, NY State declared its goal of achieving 70% renewable energy by 2030, making the state a leader in the country’s effort to decarbonize the electricity sector. Even though solar panel technology is well-established, relatively cheap, and an easy energy source to implement, it requires a significant amount of land. Unfortunately, land in NY state is scarce and is highly valuable among local communities. One megawatt of energy requires six to ten acres of land; NY aims to incorporate 6,000 MW of solar energy by 2025 (which requires anywhere from 36,000 to 60,000 acres of land).
2. Sustainable Technology: Floatovoltaics
Floating solar panels have been adopted in several countries around the world since the technology was first developed in Japan in 2007. New incentives for this type of technology are being introduced into the electricity sector, due to high population density and land availability. The majority of floating solar panel arrays use traditional panels that sit on floating platforms or pontoons, and are anchored to the lake floor or nearby shore. Floating solar panels are designed to withstand heavy winds and waves that may change its alignment with the sun.
- Land-based solar panel developments typically require extensive infrastructure in order to connect to the electricity grid, however, since lakes are oftentimes near hydroelectric facilities, floating solar panel arrays do not require infrastructure for interconnection.
- Floating solar panels can increase the efficiency of energy capture. Performance of solar panels typically decreases as temperatures increase, however, since floating solar panels sit on a water source, the water cools the solar equipment, and thus means that the panels can produce electricity at higher efficiencies in higher temperature environments.
- Floating solar panels can also decrease water evaporation in local water sources, which minimizes the impacts of drought. The panels can decrease evaporation through reducing solar irradiation and wind effects on the surface water. Decreasing water evaporation allows local hydroelectric plants to operate at higher capacity (studies suggest that it may increase energy capacity by 76%). Additionally, the shade that the panels offer can decrease the growth of algae blooms in drinking water sources, which minimizes human health impacts.
- NY state generates more electricity from hydro facilities than any state east of the Rocky Mountains. The state’s large hydroelectric power system makes it an ideal location to host the development of large-scale floating solar panel arrays.
“Floatovoltaics: How Floating Solar Panels Could Work in NY” (http://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/floatovoltaics-how-floating-solar-panels-could-work-in-ny/), Cornell Policy Review
- Solar Project Developers
- Utility Companies
- Community Residents
- Real-estate developers
4. Technology Implementation:
1. In order to ensure the guaranteed support of local communities, solar project developers must regularly communicate with members and organizations of communities located in regions that have the potential to host floating solar projects.
2. The solar project developer must also establish a strong relationship with either the local hydroelectric facility manager, or a utility company (if no hydro plant is located within the area).
3. An environmental impact assessment must be performed before construction, in order to ensure that communities and their environments will not be harmed by the solar project.