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

This panda-shaped solar farm sets a new bar for cute creativity

Panda Power Plant in Datong, China is a multiphase solar farm building panda-shaped solar arrays. Read the rest