Floating solar farms could help reduce the impact of climate change on lakes and reservoirs, according to a new study published in the journal Solar energy.
Conventional solar farms are somewhat controversial because of the amount of land they occupy, leading to an increase in the number of floating solar farms.
To understand the impact these solar farms have on lakes and reservoirs, researchers at the University of Lancaster used computer modeling to look at the long-term consequences.
Their results revealed that floating solar farms can cool the water temperature by shading the water from the sun. To a large extent, this could help mitigate the adverse effects caused by global warming, such as the blooming of poisonous blue-green algae and increased water evaporation, which could jeopardize water supply in some regions.
Scientists have also found that solar farms reduce the duration of ‘stratification’ – where the sun heats the water, creating different layers of water at different temperatures.
This usually occurs in the summer months and can result in deoxygenation of the lower water layer, which degrades water quality.
The effects on water temperature depended on the size of the solar installation, the researchers found that farms covering more than 90% of the lake could increase the chances of the lake freezing in the winter.
Mr. Giles Exley, Ph.D. Researcher and lead author from the University of Lancaster said: ‘The effects of the floating sun on water body temperature and stratification, which are the main drivers of biological and chemical processes, could be compared in magnitude to the changes the lake will experience with climate change.
‘Floating solar energy could help mitigate the negative effects that global warming will have on these water bodies.
‘However, there are also real risks of harmful effects, such as deoxygenation which causes unwanted increases in nutrient concentrations and killing of fish. We need to conduct more research to understand the likelihood of both positive and negative impacts. ‘
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