Sunengy has developed a new kind of floating solar array, called a Liquid Solar Array (LSA), which they believe could be attached to hydro-electric dams to increase their energy output. The LSA is a floating platform with a series of concentrated solar panels that have the ability to track the sun’s trajectory across the sky to garner the most energy from available daylight. Sunengy also believes their floating solar array will be cheaper than conventional solar panels because of the lack of expensive storm proof mounts and land acquisition costs.
Sunengy teamed up with India’s Tata Power and is currently testing a small 13.5-kilowatt LSA in a hydro-electric dam outside of Mumbai in India. “In this situation, there is already a large transmission line connected, but it has a limitation caused by the limited amount of water available to most hydro plants,” Sunengy CEO Phil Connor told Clean Energy Authority. “That means they only use the transmission line for about 30 percent of each day on average. With a large LSA system on the dam, the overall system gains another six hours or so of capacity each day. This could increase the overall energy produced by the dam by perhaps 50 percent, sometimes more.”
Hydro-electric dams can store energy by holding water throughout the day so the Liquid Solar Array would feed power to the dam throughout the day helping to store water as energy. The water then doesn’t have to be released until the sun goes down. The coolness of the water that the array floats upon will also help it work more efficiently. Connor noted that though the LSA is not safe for the open ocean — it could be destroyed by large waves — it can withstand strong winds that might whip across protected water by using a mechanism to hide its solar panels under the water’s surface. Watch the video embedded above to see how the Liquid Solar Array works.