Japan Unveils A Pair Of Massive, High-Efficiency, Floating Solar Power Plants

What’s big, “green,” and able to provide clean power for almost a thousand people?

image via youtube screen capture

For those interested in clean renewable energy, we’re living in exciting times. Recent news that we’re adding more green energy capacity every year than that of oil, coal, and gas combined was heralded as “the beginning of the end” for fossil fuels, and every day it seems there are new advances in the field of clean, sustainable power. But, in terms of sheer scale, it’s hard to not be particularly impressed with these massive, solar energy plants unveiled this week in Japan. But it’s not just the staggering size of the solar fields that have observers so excited; It’s the fact that plants this large and this powerful are, in fact, entirely aquatic.

Built by the Kyocera corporation, the two solar power plants currently float in the Higashihira and Nishihira water reservoirs located in the Japanese city of Katō. There, they will provide clean, renewable solar power, without devouring large swathes of Japan’s limited, and costly, land space. According to Wired, the combined output of the plants is expected to hit 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) annually, generated by over 11,000 individual solar units. Based on estimates from the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Kyocera claims their plants will be powerful enough to supply clean, off-the-grid electricity to nearly a thousand households annually.

As Kyocera points out, there are many benefits to their massive floating design:

image via youtube screen capture

1. Floating solar power generating systems typically generate more electricity than ground-mount and rooftop systems due to the cooling effect of the water.

2. They reduce reservoir water evaporation and algae growth by shading the water.

3. Floating platforms are 100% recyclable, utilizing high-density polyethylene, which can withstand ultraviolet rays and resists corrosion.

4. The floating platforms are designed and engineered to withstand extreme physical stress, including typhoon conditions.

The floating solar plants were, at one point, to be the largest of their kind in existance—a title now expected to be shattered after Brazil announced plans for a dramatically more powerful plant that will be built on the Uatumã tributary into the Amazon river. That project, points out Wired, has come under heavy criticism from environmental groups. For the time being, though, the Katō floating solar fields seem to be the biggest, and most powerful floating solar game in town.

The plants come as part of an ongoing push by Japan to explore alternate forms of energy, following the catastrophic meltdown of the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Since then, Japan has been investing heavily in renewable power, becoming a top contender in the solar power industry, alongside China and the US. Russia, meanwhile, is expected to complete construction on a floating atomic power plant by the fall of 2016.

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