Floating Solar For The Golden State

The current population of the “Golden State,” California is estimated to be 40.02 million people. In February 2019, state utilities used natural gas (49.6%), renewable energy (43.5%), nuclear (6.8%) and coal (0.1%) to generate electricity. Solar, hydropower and geothermal are the primary sources of renewable energy in California.

Over the past few years, California utilities have incurred significant costs to replace infrastructure destroyed from forest fires. The utilities have also closed inefficient, high cost coal-fueled power plants. These costs have contributed to California’s high electricity prices. In February 2019, the average cost of electricity in California was U.S. 19.8 ¢ per kWh, which is the 7th most expensive price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Concerns over global warming and climate change have prompted state leaders to accelerate the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. On September 10, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating 50% of California’s electricity be powered by renewable resources by 2025, 60% by 2030 and zero-carbon electricity emissions by 2045. California was the first of several states that have now mandated zero-carbon electricity emissions.

Construction has now started on what will become the largest floating solar power system in California. The floating solar array will be installed on the water treatment system of Windsor, which is approximate sixty miles northwest of San Francisco, California. The floating solar power system will met 90% of Windsor’s water treatment and pump facilities’ energy needs.

Ciel Et Terre will install the 4,959 high-output solar panels that will be mounted atop the company’s patented Hydrelio floating solar racking system. Ciel Et Terre develops, operates, and maintains large-scale solar power plants and is headquartered in Hellemmes, France.

The floating solar project will cover only 22% of the available water surface area of the pond. It will have no impact on the biology of the pond and will reduce water loss from evaporation and inhibit algae growth. The state-of-the-art floating solar design can be expanded for extra capacity and will not affect plant operations while it is being installed.

Windsor Public Works Director, Toni Bertolero stated, “Our water reclamation and corporation yard facilities currently account for 40% of the town’s greenhouse gas emissions. Installation of this new floating solar array will reduce our reliance on energy-polluting sources by an estimated 350 metric tons of CO2 per year, a significant step to achieve our Climate Action Plan emission reduction goals.”

Floating solar is a relatively new form of renewable energy. In the United States floating solar has been primarily used on relatively small wastewater and water treatment facilities. However, the People’s Republic of China has installed a massive floating solar system in the city of Huainan. Researchers from the Nation Renewable Energy Lab estimate that floating solar arrays could provide up to 10% of America’s power requirements.

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