Floatovoltaics are a cool way to super-charge your solar panels with water

Last summer, I worked with IBM and the Weather Channel on some climate- and energy-related content for their Forecast Change campaign. I just learned that the project apparently won a Digiday Content Marketing Award for the best branded content site of the year, which is pretty cool (or at least, my mom might think so).

But I wanted to share one of the pieces I wrote, because the concept was new to me before working on it, and it's now stuck with me ever since; I even found a way to work in as a plot point for playwriting commission I did on climate change. It has to do with floatovoltaic energy — essentially, floating solar panels on (or submerging them in!) bodies of water, to make them more efficient and save water. As I wrote then for Weather.com:

“It’s like putting a plastic sheet over the whole lake, or the whole tailings pond,” explains Joshua Pearce, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. Pearce has worked extensively in the emerging field of floatovoltaic technology (FVT), or the overlap of solar energy systems and water use. He says that the presence of solar panels over a body of water can provide enough shade to consistently reduce evaporation by 70-80%.


A solar module can easily increase its energy output by five percent just by floating on top of a body of water, even if the panels themselves don’t actually touch the surface. The panels at Las Tórtolas are positioned several inches above the water itself resting on floating pontoons, but even that close proximity still results in an additional 3,000 kWh of electricity annually; a fully submerged solar panel can be even more efficient.

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Drone's-eye view of how solar farms clean all those panels

Clifford Burgoni wanted to sell his system for cleaning 86,000 solar panels, so he made a cool drone video of the gear in operation. Read the rest

World's cheapest electricity is Mexican solar power

Electricity here in Los Angeles is 17.8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Not far away, Mexicans get solar electric for one-tenth the price. And by 2019, the price could drop to 1¢/kWh.

From Electrek:

Soon we’re going to have to confront new questions as solar power costs less than anything seriously considered before, and will offer new opportunities never thought of before. What will we do with all of this cheap energy? How do we move from fossil systems toward solar sources without destroying the social fabric of those dependent on revenue from gas and coal? How will our post scarcity society continue to advance? It’s going to be more difficult to live up to the potentials of solar and ‘free energy’ than we think.

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Photovoltaic venetian blinds

These SolarGaps prototypes are interesting ways to harness sunlight as it's being blocked. Note: the video is heavy on the promotion and light on the tech specs, but it's a neat idea. Read the rest

Cost of solar energy dropped 30% in year; Trump's coal plan won't work

What will happen to Trump's promise to revive the coal industry as the price of solar energy continues to drop?

From Computerworld:

"Not only did solar create almost 2% of all new U.S. jobs last year, those hires were concentrated in the states where solar is booming primarily because of market-friendly policies," said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University's Solar Institute.

Trump has also threatened to pull U.S. support for the Paris Agreement, which last year saw voluntary pledges by 195 nations to lower CO2 emissions. But the impact of such a move would be negligible at best in helping the coal industry, analysts said.

"Even if he did all those things..., which would require legislative hurdles, the economics still favor gas more as an energy generation source," said Colleen Kennedy, an oil and energy analyst with at Lux Research. "The economics just don't work out in favor of coal."

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Four of USA's top solar states are on the east coast

California may be the first US state to generate more than 5% of its electricity from utility solar, but runner-up North Carolina leads the four east coast states that comprised last year's top solar states. The top ten: Read the rest

Solar energy will soon "undercut even the cheapest fossil fuels in many regions of the planet"

Even without generous tax credits, solar energy is going to become the dominant source of cheap energy. Bloomberg: "The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel." Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: What Will Counter-Earth Obama Do To Get Sun and Wind?!!

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