Solar photovoltaic (PV) power is now widely used, and it is expected to be used more broadly in the future as one of typical renewable energies. As solar PV power plants are generally understood to be installed mainly on ground, most people believe that these facilities are suitable for countries with vast land. But solar PV power plants can be built on the surface of water with floating technology, regardless of depth and quality of water in case it is deeper than 30 meters. While it topographically has narrow flatland, Korea has abundant water surfaces, such as reservoirs, rivers and sea.
Shinhwa E&E (CEO: Hwang Seong-Tae), a leading manufacturer of solar PV power generation system and builder of such structure based in Korea, developed proprietary floating PV generation technology and installed the world’s largest floating PV power plants. Founded in 2012, Shinhwa E&E concentrated efforts on developing the unique method of the IFS, a method of effectively supporting structure for floating solar PV modules, using fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) frame structures. As an eco-friendly energy source that does not produce any pollutants, such as greenhouse gas, noise and environmental destruction, solar PV generation has great potential for expanding adoption areas and enhancing efficiency thanks to technology innovation. But requirement of extensive area of land is the greatest challenge in the solar PV energy industry. For example, a solar PV power plant requires 70 times wider area of land for generating 1GW of power than a nuclear power generation plant with the same capacity.
A solution for such challenge of solar PV energy is the floating PV power plant. Since Korea has rich inland and unused waters, including reservoirs, lakes and rivers, it can generate around 4.17GW of power by using only approximately 5% of these inland waters. The floating solar PV power plant provides benefits of helping fish and other living things in the water grow and propagate better due to shadow made by solar panels, and it generates 10% larger power than the one installed on the ground. Unlike other similar technologies, the new technology of Shinhwa E&E supports structure of floating solar modules, using FRP frame structure which delivers excellent durability in wetting or salt damaging environment. Besides FRP, iron and aluminum were traditionally used as materials for frame structure. While the price of iron is relatively lower, it is vulnerable to erosion, and aluminum is erosion-resistant but its price is higher. But, though it costs more than iron, FRP is cheaper than aluminum, and is free from erosion, emission of hazardous substances, and environmental pollution.
In recognition of excellence of the Shinhwa E&E’s new technology, 5 large capacity floating PV power plants have already been built in Korea adopting its technology, including the first 500kW floating PV power generation facility on Hapcheon Dam in 2012, a 1MW floating PV power plant in Dangjin Thermoelectric Power Plant in 2013, a 2MW floating PV power plant on Chupungryeong Reservoir in 2014 and a 3MW floating PV power plant each on Otae and Jipyeong Reservoirs in 2015. And Dangjin City government plans to build a 100MW floating PV power plant each on Daeho Lake and Seokmun Lake in the near future.
“Today, Korea operates floating PV power plants with the largest capacity in the world, and it is leading the world in floating PV generation technology. Taking account of advancement in related technologies, terrain of land and natural environment of Korea, solar PV power generation is the most promising energy industry,” said Hwang Seong-Tae, CEO of Shinhwa E&E.