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Solar power generation on a floating platform

To develop a solar power system floating on water and to demonstrate how it can bring a substantial decrease in electricity production costs. Key elements are concentration of solar energy on solar cells and an innovative cooling system using water as a cold source.

This projects aims to introduce a new paradigm in electricity production, floating solar power plants on water. It received the label of Pole de Competitivite Capenergies by a decision dated June 29 2009. Two partners of the project belong to the Pole de Competitivite Capenergies, namely SODITECH INGENIERIE and EDF UPM. It applied for and is in the process of also getting a label from the Pole de Competitivite OPTITEC. One of the partners, POLYRISE, belongs to this cluster. As PV (Photovoltaic) companies struggle to find land to install modules on the ground, the project team identified the almost untouched potential of solar systems on water. There are many water reservoirs with energy, industrial or agricultural uses that are open for further energy production use. A key success factor is the ability to demonstrate cheap solar electricity production. This project intends to achieve cost reduction by reducing the amount of costly solar cells through sun energy concentration. Concentration of solar energy creates heat. The intended system is planned with an evaporating/condensation cooling system floating on water. Thanks to this efficient cooling method, this Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) system, unlike more expensive cells of mainstream CPV, uses Silicon solar cells, which thanks to cooling achieve a higher efficiency than in standard PV mode. Simplicity of concentration comes together with a simple sun tracking solution, achieved by slowly rotating the floating platform around its axis. The project will have a design phase involving Heat Transfer, Mechanical Engineering, Optics, Electrical Engineering and Materials Engineering. Three companies will collaborate in the design phase: * SOLARIS SYNERGY; * SODITECH INGENIERIE; * POLYRISE. The design will take into account a system size allowing the production of 1MW of electricity. The implementation phase will build a test for a smaller system able to produce 50 kW. The system is expected to be built of identical modules, so that reaching a higher power rating is achieved by adding more modules to the system. For the implementation, there is an additional partner, EDF UPM. It operates most dams retaining water of South East FRANCE. It represents the final customer of the project. It will provide the site of Cadarache where there is a reservoir behind a dam with proximity to the electricity grid. The system will be tested over a period of time of 6 to 9 months, experiencing seasonal changes, current drifts, and water level changes. The project will address the following main topics: The large mechanical structure needs the flexibility to sustain wave motion, slow water level variation and moderate water current. The project needs to solve a unique complex mechanical problem that is combining the requirements of stability of a large floating structure with sun tracking and keeping solar cells in focus. Additionally a reliable anchoring system to the shore will be developed. Two concepts of concentration will be designed for comparison, parabolic mirrors and cylindrical Fresnel lenses. Innovative, nano-particle-based coatings and varnishes will be developed to protect all optical surfaces from humidity and dust and will be scratch resistant. Electrical engineering challenges involve the optimal connection of solar cells, the design of the inverter circuits and the efficient electricity collection system to bring power to the grid on the shore. The evaporating/condensation system will be built with polymeric materials. If metal were used, the many pipes would be assembled by welding, creating weak points with leakage risk over time. Using polymeric materials contributes to the overall goal of achieving both reliability and cost target. On the other hand it is a major challenge since thermal conductivity of polymer materials is lower than thermal conductivity of metal. Since the system is planned to be used on industrial water or reclaimed water, the selected material should be chemically inert to its environment. One more constraint is mechanical. The pressure inside the pipes is low. Ring stiffness should be strong enough to withstand that pressure difference. Since the system is exposed to a humid environment, solar cell assembly and encapsulation need to be designed accordingly. Assembly should assure electrical contacts, thermal contact and insulation from water over a period of 20 years without failure. A preliminary check shows no detrimental environmental impact on water quality, flora and fauna. Choices of materials will keep this concern in mind. This will also be monitored during the implementation phase. At the end of the project a working system will be developed and will demonstrate the required reliability according to current qualification standards. The targeted efficiency should be demonstrated, both thermally and electrically. The project will also deliver a manufacturing cost analysis and generation cost assessment.
Acronym: 
AQUASUN
Project ID: 
5 044
Start date: 
01-04-2010
Project Duration: 
24months
Project costs: 
1 500 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Solar/Thermal energy
Market Area: 
Solar energy

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