Solar power is booming in Japan; the nation doubled its solar power capacity within two years of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and is now a world leader along with China and the US. While physicists continue to work on floating nuclear power plant designs, which would use ocean water to cool the reactor in the event of an emergency, in the meantime floating solar power plants are having a moment in the sun.
The latest such “mega-plants” at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City are the work of electronics giant Kyocera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, and took just seven months to install. The plant’s 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) every year.
According to Kyocera, besides being typhoon-proof (due to their sturdy, high-density polyethylene and array design) floating solar plants are superior to their land-based equivalents because of the cooling effect of the water, which allows them to function more efficiently. Reservoirs are also an ideal location because the panels produce shade, which reduces water evaporation and promotes algae growth. A report by Korea Water Resources Corporation found that the lower temperatures of the floating modules mean they are 11 percent more efficient than land-based equivalents. The report identified unsolved issues with the plants, too, however. It said the study had to discard data collected when the panels moved in the wind, and said research into new mooring systems was “continually needed”.