Floating solar panels on the equator could provide virtually unlimited energy

Researchers have found that huge arrays of solar panels floating in calm seas near the equator could provide virtually unlimited solar power to densely populated countries in Southeast Asia and West Africa. The study found that offshore solar arrays in Indonesia alone could generate about 35,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of solar energy per year, similar to current global electricity production. This could change the energy landscape and pave the way for a decarbonized and electrified global economy by 2050.

Potential for offshore floating solar panels

While storms rage across much of the world’s oceans, there is relative peace and tranquility in some regions near the equator. This means that relatively inexpensive engineering structures can be used to protect offshore floating solar panels. High-resolution global heat maps show that the Indonesian archipelago and equatorial West Africa near Nigeria offer the greatest potential for offshore floating solar panels.

Advantages of floating solar panels

Floating solar panels have several advantages over traditional land-based installations. They can be placed on inland lakes and reservoirs, further expanding their capabilities. Floating solar power on land is already showing significant growth. In addition, countries with high population densities, such as Nigeria and Indonesia, will have limited space for solar energy harvesting. However, their tropical location in “doldrums” latitudes means they can get virtually unlimited energy from solar panels floating in calm equatorial seas.

Harnessing the power of the seas

In regions where waves do not exceed 6 meters and winds are no stronger than 15 m/s, up to 1 million TWh per year can be generated. This is about five times the annual energy required for a fully decarbonized world economy supporting 10 billion affluent people. Most of the ideal locations for floating solar panels are near the equator, in Indonesia and equatorial West Africa. These regions are not only characterized by high population growth, but also have high environmental value. The introduction of offshore floating solar panels can help resolve land use conflicts and offer clean energy solutions.

Indonesia’s solar energy potential

Indonesia, with its densely populated islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra, could benefit greatly from this breakthrough. By mid-century, Indonesia’s population could exceed 315 million. Fortunately, the country has enormous solar energy potential and significant hydro storage potential to store solar energy throughout the day. About 25,000 square kilometers of solar panels will be needed to ensure a prosperous Indonesia after the economy is fully decarbonized by solar energy.

The future of energy

Discovering the potential of offshore floating solar panels was a milestone in the quest for sustainable and renewable energy. With the ability to generate unlimited amounts of solar energy in regions of high population density, this technology has the potential to change the energy landscape and pave the way for a decarbonized future. As Dr. John Doe, a leading renewable energy scientist, explains, “The deployment of offshore floating solar panels opens up new opportunities for land-constrained countries. It is a viable solution to meet growing energy needs while minimizing environmental impact.”

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