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The Land Sparing, Water Surface Use Efficiency, and Water Surface Transformation of Floating Photovoltaic Solar Energy Installations

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Article number8154
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/10/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Sustainability
Issue number19
Volume12
Number of pages22
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Floating photovoltaic solar energy installations (FPVs) represent a new type of water surface use, potentially sparing land needed for agriculture and conservation. However, standardized metrics for the land sparing and resource use efficiencies of FPVs are absent. These metrics are critical to understanding the environmental and ecological impacts that FPVs may potentially exhibit. Here, we compared techno-hydrological and spatial attributes of four FPVs spanning different climatic regimes. Next, we defined and quantified the land sparing and water surface use efficiency (WSUE) of each FPV. Lastly, we coined and calculated the water surface transformation (WST) using generation data at the world’s first FPV (Far Niente Winery, California). The four FPVs spare 59,555 m2 of land and have a mean land sparing ratio of 2.7:1 m2 compared to ground-mounted PVs. Mean direct and total capacity-based WSUE is 94.5 ± 20.1 SD Wm−2 and 35.2 ± 27.4 SD Wm−2, respectively. Direct and total generation-based WST at Far Niente is 9.3 and 13.4 m2 MWh−1 yr−1, respectively; 2.3 times less area than ground-mounted utility-scale PVs. Our results reveal diverse techno-hydrological and spatial attributes of FPVs, the capacity of FPVs to spare land, and the utility of WSUE and WST metrics.