China has announced that the largest floating photovoltaic (PV) facility on earth has finally been completed and connected to the local power grid. Long reviled for its carbon emission record, this is the Chinese government’s latest achievement in its ongoing effort to lead the world in renewable energy adoption.

Located in the city of Huainan in the Anhui province, the 40-megawatt facility was created by PV inverter manufacturer Sungrow Power Supply Co. Ironically, the floating grid itself was constructed over a flooded former coal-mining region.

Sungrow is the owner and developer of both plants, while modules have been and will be supplied by various major manufacturers from across China, said Renxian.

Referring to both plants, he added: “A lot of the equipment in this PV plant including the central inverters and transformers are all actually floating above the water, so not only the module set that everyone can see but most of the core equipment.”

Obtaining permits was relatively easy as the land was already environmentally damaged during the previous mining process. Energy will be sold to utility State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC).

Renxian added: “The banks are willing to provide us financial support because even though the ROI of these floating plants can be a little bit lower than the other ground-mounted PV plants, this kind of plant doesn’t have a real estate problem.”

While getting equipment to the plant should be relatively easy as the location is not too remote, the logistics of actually getting the equipment on the water without getting damaged is a major challenge and requires innovations at many levels.

The effects of humidity and Potential Induced Degradation (PID) are major considerations given the proximity to water. However, the water does keep the system cooler, therefore limiting the solar panels’ exposure to the ‘temperature coefficient’ that results in performance degradation as ambient temperatures increase.

The floating systems will be kept in place by multiple anchors. At present, the depth of the lake area is 5-10 metres, but it is sinking as a result of the mines and will soon reach up to 15 metres. Cleaning the plant will also be simplified by the proximity of water, although robotics will also be used for much of the cleaning process.

Renxian added: “The whole point of this plant is to take high advantage of the mining ground which is already destroyed – and to help the environment.”

Sungrow is also hoping to supply its complete floating PV solutions worldwide having learned key lessons from its initial projects. It already has interest from customers in Japan and Southeast Asia.