United Utilities is installing a floating solar system on Lancaster Reservoir.
A floating solar installation consists of ‘rafts’ of floats with the solar panels mounted on top. The rafts are bolted together and anchored, to allow for fluctuations in water level, using specially designed mooring and anchoring systems.
The system in Lancaster will be around 7,200 square metres in size and feature 3,520 solar panels.
It is expected the power generated from the panels will be able to provide 1MW of power – the equivalent of the needs of 200 homes.
United Utilities began the eight-week installation process at the beginning of October, and the power generated will be used to run the neighbouring Lancaster water treatment works which supplies water to 152,000 people across Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.
It’s also thought that floating solar panels can help reduce the growth of algae in the water by blocking out the light. Fewer algae means the treatment process can run with fewer chemicals and less energy.
Richard Waggitt, Head of Renewable Energy at United Utilities, said: ‘In this case water and electricity really do mix. Solar panels are more efficient than they used to be; there is a misconception that you need high levels of sunlight, when in fact daylight is sufficient.
‘What you do need is unshaded space for the arrays, and that’s where the surface area of our reservoirs is a real advantage.’
Construction firm Forrest will be delivering the project. Their head of energy, Barry Tayburn, said that the solar farm is a ‘great showcase of innovation.’
‘We have commissioned a brand new float system for Lancaster, working with local businesses Northern Pontoons and Aqua-Dock, producing the floats off-site.
‘Once transported to the reservoir, tables of 20 panels are floated out via a launch platform and then connected to anchors in-situ.
‘This system really is a viable option for producers of large amounts of energy as a serious alternative to ground-mounted arrays.’
This will be United Utilities’ second floating solar installation. The company installed Europe’s first commercial floating solar array at its Godley reservoir near Manchester in February 2016. That array is three times the size of the one proposed at Lancaster and can generate 3GWh of electricity per year.