1. Home
  2. India
  3. Floating solar: Opportunities abound, but so do obstacles – EQ
Floating solar: Opportunities abound, but so do obstacles – EQ

Floating solar: Opportunities abound, but so do obstacles – EQ


In Short : Floating solar presents abundant opportunities, yet hurdles exist. While it maximizes space and enhances efficiency, challenges such as technological complexities and environmental concerns need addressing. Overcoming these obstacles is crucial to fully harnessing floating solar’s potential for sustainable energy generation.

In Detail : By utilising existing waterbodies, floating solar minimises land requirements and its placement allows for ambient cooling

In the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions, India stands at a pivotal juncture. With growing concerns over climate change and the imperative to transition to cleaner sources of energy, the country is actively exploring innovative avenues to meet its renewable energy targets.

Among these, floating solar photovoltaic (FSPV) technology has emerged as a uniquely sustainable option, offering unique advantages and opportunities. Currently, 2.1 gigawatts of FSPV projects have been sanctioned till 2024-25. The Omkareshwar Reservoir at Madhya Pradesh with 600 megawatts capacity is currently the largest FSPV project.

On May 2, 2024, Ernst & Young (EY), a transaction advisory and consulting firm, in collaboration with GIZ India, convened a thought-provoking panel discussion at the TERI School of Advanced Studies (TERI SAS) to delve into the future of FSPV in India.

Bringing together diverse experts from backgrounds in project management, industry and academia, the event aimed to dissect the potential, challenges, and outlook for FSPV in India’s renewable energy landscape.

Understanding floating solar PV technology

Floating solar PV plants represent a novel approach to solar power generation, where photovoltaic panels are mounted on floating structures deployed on inland waterbodies such as lakes, reservoirs and ponds. This innovative setup offers several distinct advantages over traditional land-based solar installations.

By utilising existing waterbodies, floating solar minimises land requirements. Further, the placement on waterbodies allows ambient cooling compared to placement on land, which enhances the performance and efficiency of the panels.

During the session, EY explained the methodology used for assessing the potential of FSPV in India. The methodology includes examining the area covered by perennial waterbodies characterised by year-round water availability, while excluding their depth, since depth is not a constraint. The estimated collective area of these perennial waterbodies is around 30,404 square kilometres.

To determine the suitable waterbodies, certain restrictions are applied, such as excluding waterbodies located in protected zones and considering only those within a 25 km distance from a 132 kilovolt substation. After applying these criteria, the resource area across these perennial waterbodies is estimated to be about 7,751 sq km.

Next, the methodology calculates the installation density for FSPV. For each megawatt peak (MWp) of FSPV potential, a surface area of 0.015 sq km is considered. Using this density, the estimated FSPV potential for India is around 206 gigawatts (GW).

Finally, the methodology takes into account environmental concerns. To minimise impacts on biodiversity and aquatic life, the area used for FSPV installations is limited to 40 per cent of the total area of the waterbody. This approach ensures that floating solar projects can be developed with reduced ecological disruption while maximising the potential for emerging renewable energy solutions.

According to Arpo Mukherjee, associate vice-president at EY, “India’s potential for floating solar is vast, but to realise the estimated 206 GW capacity, the country must tackle a range of challenges, including technological feasibility, site selection, regulatory frameworks, financing constraints, and environmental concerns”.

Despite these obstacles, floating solar presents a promising and scalable solution to India’s growing energy demands by offering a path toward a more sustainable energy future.

Advantages & challenges

The panellists underscored the numerous advantages of floating solar photovoltaic technology. By leveraging waterbodies for solar power generation, floating solar offers a dual land use solution, optimising space utilisation and minimising environmental impact.

Moreover, the natural cooling effect of water enhances energy efficiency, resulting in higher generation compared to traditional land-based installations. The potential for reducing water evaporation and preserving aquatic ecosystems further enhances the appeal of floating solar, positioning it as a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy solution.

Despite its promise, floating solar faces several challenges that warrant attention. Technological feasibility, site selection criteria, environmental impact assessments, regulatory frameworks and financing constraints emerged as key hurdles hindering the widespread adoption of floating solar in India. Which require parallel interventions via policy measures, technological improvements and studies on impact on aquatic life.

Policy & technological perspectives

The importance of clear policy frameworks and streamlined regulatory processes cannot be overstated in the context of floating solar deployment. The panellists emphasised the need for comprehensive policies that incentivise investment in floating solar projects, while ensuring environmental sustainability and stakeholder engagement. Suggestions were made for integrating floating solar targets into national and state-level renewable energy policies, streamlining approval processes and providing financial incentives to spur investment in floating solar infrastructure.

Technological innovation lies at the heart of advancing floating solar photovoltaic technology. The panel highlighted the importance of ongoing research and development initiatives aimed at improving the efficiency, durability, lowering the project cost, minimising the maintenance and cost-effectiveness of FSPV systems. Key areas include advancements in floating platform design, solar panel technology, mooring systems and environmental monitoring tools.

Additionally, the need for in-depth pre-feasibility studies and accurate data and information on wind, solar resources, water levels and water quality was emphasised to support informed decision-making and project planning.

In conclusion, FSPV technology holds immense promise for India’s renewable energy future. With its unique advantages and potential to address pressing energy and environmental challenges, floating solar represents a viable and scalable solution to meet India’s growing energy needs.

Realising this potential requires concerted efforts from policymakers, industry stakeholders, researchers and the broader community to overcome existing barriers and unlock the full benefits of this technology.

Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network