Recently, solar power has been one of the big drivers of the eco-movement leading to solar panels sprouting up all across the globe on rooftops, fields & terraces.
Not only has solar energy been under fierce attack from vested interests who do not want to see it flourish and take revenue away from the big old petrochemical industry, but also from within the eco-movement by proponents of other renewable sources of energy. Primarily, it has been attacked because of its lack of cost-efficiency which is decreasing with new innovations in the field and for the amount of land it occupies.
But there have been new developments in the field where the industry is revolutionizing by changing its
very niche. The solar industry is going marine, and solar platforms that float on water are what’s new.
Much of the solar industry’s strength emanates from the ‘’Golden State’’ of California and so it comes as
no surprise that this new innovation has sprung from its infancy in California as well.
Already, 144 solar panels sit atop pontoons moored on a three-acre irrigation pond surrounded by vineyards in Petaluma in Sonoma County. Some 35 miles to the north, in the heart of the Napa Valley, another array of 994 solar panels covers the surface of a pond at the Far Niente Winery.
Likewise, it’s already spreading globally and companies such as Sunengy of Australia and Solaris Synergy of Israel are already trying to create markets that are viable for marine solar panel platforms atop agricultural and mining ponds, hydroelectric reservoirs and canals.
Chris Robine, SPG Solar’s chief executive, said he had heard from potential customers as far away as India, Australia and the Middle East. Sunengy, based in Sydney, said it had signed a deal with Tata Power, India’s largest private utility, to build a small pilot project on a hydroelectric reservoir near Mumbai. Solaris Synergy, meanwhile, said it planned to float a solar array on a reservoir in the south of France in a trial with the French utility EDF.
This new revolution has immense potential, as David Sadlak of the University of California, Berkley
realized. He found that not only are marine solar platforms good sources of energy but they also
disable the growth of algae which are a serious source of problem for irrigation canals and hydroelectric
reservoirs. In addition, they also cut down evaporation and wastage of open sources of water and shield the water from solar radiation and pollution.
It makes sense fiscally too. For example, if you have a drought on a hydroelectric dam, your asset is dead but if you have solar power still running then a revenue stream still persists.
The environment movement is faltering because of the cuts worldwide in a sluggish economic climate
where governments can’t afford to invest in green technology, but it’s encouraging to see the private
sector pick up the pace and try to infuse new vigour and vitality into the movement.
This does give one a sense of hope and optimism that we can still think of new and innovative ways of making the green movement a reality. The movement is picking up steam and as Eric Hoffer once said, "In a time of change, it is learners who inherit the future, whilst the learned find themselves equipped to live only in a world that no longer exists.”