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Solar power now competing for lands, holds lesson for Nigeria

The usage of solar energy is one topic that excites Nigerian, though majorities see it as a mirage because of the cost.

The reason why some discerning Nigerians are interested in it, of course, is not farfetched. Successive governments have failed woefully with regards to the provision of regular electricity.

While its beginning to gather momentum in Nigeria, in United States and other South Asian countries they seems move a step higher as solar power companies are now competing for land with agriculture, industry and expanding populations by placing floating panels in lakes, dams, reservoirs and the sea.

In Thailand for example, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)said it will tender a proposal for a 45-megawatt floating solar plant in the Sirindhorn dam in the country’s northeast while it also plans to invest in about 16 such projects across nine dams in the country.

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Another country doing similar thing is Singapore, the country is developing one of the world’s largest offshore floating solar systems in the Strait of Johor to the north of the island.

“In land-scarce countries like Singapore, the widespread use of PV systems is hindered by space constraints and limited roof space,” said Frank Phuan, chief executive officer of Sunseap Group told Reuters.

CEO of Sunseap Group, one of the companies building the system said the platform has to be “more robust” than systems in reservoirs or lakes to withstand tougher conditions on the open sea, and to overcome barnacles that may grow on it.

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“It was also difficult to find a spot in the sea that was not frequented by shipping vessels,” CEO of Sunseap Group admitted.

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According to the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), despite these challenges, floating solar systems are growing quickly in Asia alongside those on the ground and on roofs.

“While floating panels are more expensive to install, they are up to 16 percent more efficient because the water’s cooling effect helps reduce thermal losses and extend their life,”SERIS said.

The According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the United States also experienced a solar boom as installed capacity last year reached 60 gigawatts, up from about 9GW a decade ago, which it expects to more than double in the next five years, with about 14GW being installed annually.

“For a start, that means much more land will be needed: under a scenario that sees solar reach 1,618GW by 2050, the government estimates a total of 6.6 million acres (2.7 million hectares) will be required by 2050 – roughly the size of Massachusetts,”Solar Industry Research Data said.

According to the World Bank in a report title “Where Sun meets Water”,China currently accounts for most of the more than 1.1 gigawatts of floating solar capacity now installed.

There are concerns that the panels could block sunlight, affecting marine life and ecosystems, and that the electrical systems might not withstand the onslaught of water supporters say the technology is proven, and that the panels cover too small a surface area to create major problems.

Stakeholders will be hoping similar feet can be repeated in Africa biggest economy which is emerging to be one of the most attractive solar markets in the region.

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Source: Dipo Oladehinde

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