A floating solar farm is expected to achieve major reductions in water evaporation at a treatment facility in South Australia.

The developers of the proposed floating solar farm plan to erect it on top of three basins of waste waster at a treatment facility in the Northern Areas Council district, situated approximately 200 kilometre to the north of Adelaide.

According to Felicia Whiting of Geits ANZ, the company behind the project, the solar facilities will differ little from conventional photovoltaic arrays, with the chief distinction being their ability to float on top of water.

The farms, which Whiting refers to as a “racking system with buoyancy” involve the use of high-density polyethylene pipe to create a floating framework, which in turn supports a structural steel pontoon into which the solar PV panels are slotted into place.

Placing solar PV cells on a floating pontoon produce a number of key benefits, including enhanced cooling of the solar PV panels as a result of the bodies of water supporting them, resulting in heightened efficiency and a lengthier shelf life for the devices.

An in-built cooling system can also utilise the underlying body of water to ensure that the panels remain at a steady temperature, thus further heightening efficiency and smoothness of operation.

In addition to the benefits for the operation of the solar devices themselves, the floating nature of the facility will also prove advantageous for the functioning of the water treatment plant which hosts them.

Whiting estimates that the solar farm should achieve an evaporation prevention rate of around 90 per cent for the surface area it covers, equivalent to an annual water evaporation depth of approximately 2.5 metres. For a dry, drought-prone region like inland South Australia this is a critical advantage.

The solar facilities spread over three basins are expected to provide enough energy for the whole waste water processing plant, as well as a modest amount of surplus power which can be siphoned off for timber milling activities or the small rural community of Jamestown in South Australia’s Mid North region.

Geits has already applied for an electricity generation license with the Essential Services Commission and hopes that construction can commence as soon as September or October, given that the farm is comprised of a pre-fabricated system.

Geits operates a number of floating solar plants internationally in countries including France, Italy and South Korea, and is currently exploring the adaption of the technology for usage with reservoirs or dams.