Floating solar farms could help to reduce the impacts of climate change on lakes and reservoirs, according to a new study published in the journal Solar Energy.
Conventional solar farms are somewhat controversial due to the amount of land they take up, this is leading to an increase in the number of floating solar farms.
In order to understand the impact that these solar farms are having on the lakes and reservoirs, researchers at the University of Lancaster used computer modelling to look at the long-term consequences.
Their results revealed that floating solar farms can cool water temperatures by shading the water from the sun. At scale, this could help to mitigate against harmful effects caused by global warming, such as blooms of toxic blue-green algae, and increased water evaporation, which could threaten water supply in some regions.
The scientists also found that solar farms reduce the duration of ‘stratification’ – this is where the sun heats the water, forming distinct layers of water at different temperatures.
This tends to happen more in the summer months and can result in the bottom layer of water becoming deoxygenated, which deteriorates water quality.
The effects on water temperature depended on the size of the solar installation, the researchers found that farms covering more than 90% of a lake could increase the chances of the lake freezing over in winter.
Mr Giles Exley, PhD researcher and lead author from Lancaster University, said: ‘The effects of floating solar on the temperature of the water body and stratification, both of which are major drivers of biological and chemical processes, could be comparable in magnitude to the changes lakes will experience with climate change.
‘Floating solar could help to mitigate against the negative effects global warming will have on these bodies of water.
‘However, there are also real risks of detrimental impacts, such as deoxygenation causing undesirable increases in nutrient concentrations and killing fish. We need to do more research to understand the likelihood of both positive and negative impacts.’
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