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Article

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

1
Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
2
Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis, CA 95616, USA
3
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK
4
Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80401, USA
5
Florida Solar Energy Center, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32922, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 8154; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12198154
Received: 4 September 2020 / Revised: 20 September 2020 / Accepted: 28 September 2020 / Published: 2 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Water–Energy–Food Nexus)
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: energy geography; energy siting; floatovoltaics; floating solar; land use; land sparing; renewable energy; solar energy; photovoltaics energy geography; energy siting; floatovoltaics; floating solar; land use; land sparing; renewable energy; solar energy; photovoltaics
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MDPI and ACS Style

Cagle, A.E.; Armstrong, A.; Exley, G.; Grodsky, S.M.; Macknick, J.; Sherwin, J.; Hernandez, R.R. The Land Sparing, Water Surface Use Efficiency, and Water Surface Transformation of Floating Photovoltaic Solar Energy Installations. Sustainability 2020, 12, 8154. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12198154

AMA Style

Cagle AE, Armstrong A, Exley G, Grodsky SM, Macknick J, Sherwin J, Hernandez RR. The Land Sparing, Water Surface Use Efficiency, and Water Surface Transformation of Floating Photovoltaic Solar Energy Installations. Sustainability. 2020; 12(19):8154. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12198154

Chicago/Turabian Style

Cagle, Alexander E.; Armstrong, Alona; Exley, Giles; Grodsky, Steven M.; Macknick, Jordan; Sherwin, John; Hernandez, Rebecca R. 2020. "The Land Sparing, Water Surface Use Efficiency, and Water Surface Transformation of Floating Photovoltaic Solar Energy Installations" Sustainability 12, no. 19: 8154. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12198154

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