Construction begins on Australia's first floating PV array

South Australia is set to be the location for Australia’s first floating PV array. Construction is under way on the components for a 4 MW floating PV power plant, which is scheduled to begin producing electricity in April.

Floating PV installations can deliver efficiency gains in warmer climes, with water cooling PV cells and decreasing heat-related losses. Australian-Singaporean company Infratech is set to begin construction on Australia’s first such array, located in Jamestown, South Australia.

Floating arrays have previously been installed in IndiaSingapore and the U.S.  Kyocera has developed and supplied a 2.9 MW array in Japan - where land availability issues present major challenges to PV developers.

The Australian project will come in at 4 MW and will be spread across three water treatment ponds, with the electricity being produced supplying the wastewater facility itself and local businesses in the area. Infratech is funding the project itself and selling the power to the local council and businesses under a PPA. A tracking system has also been incorporated into the design.

“We’ve actually started construction for the project because it produces very efficient renewable energy on top of water and we get environmental benefits for treating the water,” Infratech’s Felicia Whiting told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “So it’s a water treatment system and a renewable energy system.”

An additional advantage of the system, Whiting claims, is that water losses through evaporation will be markedly reduced and blue-green algae problems in the ponds also reduced, as the sunlight hitting the ponds will also be minimized. Water will be filtered and cycled through the array’s structure, keeping the modules at a stable temperature.

“We’ve spent about two years taking the test plants [Infratech had previously developed] in Europe and creating a truly utility-grade system,” said Whiting.

The 900 PV modules deployed across the three arrays will be supported be a high-density polyethylene (HDP) pipe mounting system, which will provide the array with buoyancy. Steel mounting racks are then placed abreast the HDP structure, onto which the modules will be affixed.

Infratech worked with the local Northern Areas council in South Australia to realize the project and reports that the floating solar project has received strong community report. Infratech is based in Australia and is currently developing projects in the U.S. that it hopes to realize once construction of the South Australian power plant is complete.

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