Google Reinventing Floating Solar Panels in Taiwan

Google has recently purchased a large fishing pond in Taiwan that will be used for a new floating solar energy production site.


Google has recently purchased a large fishing pond in Taiwan that will be used for a new floating production site. In Tainan City, Google is the first international company to take advantage of the Taiwan Electricity Act, which was established in 2017. This act allows companies to buy and manage solar and renewable energy programs in Taiwan. This also marks the first water solar energy-based investment Google has made thus far in its history, as well as the first time Google has entered into the Asian solar energy market. 

How Google’s Floating Solar Panels are Different 

Traditional floating solar panels are known as “floatovoltaics,” a term coined using a combination of the words floating and photovoltaics. These types of solar energy productions sites are becoming more and more popular worldwide for several reasons. The number one perk is the ability to construct solar energy production sites where there is limited land space. Some areas may not have adequate land or rooftop space to build solar panels, but they may have bodies of water nearby. Floating solar panels solve the problem many urban areas face when it comes to implementing solar energy. In addition to conserving land space, floating solar energy panels provide shade for the bodies of water they float on. This prevents excess evaporation overall, helping to conserve water.  

Google is aiming for an improved design for its floating solar panels. The proposed 10-megawatt floating solar farm will be built using poles that will elevate the panels above the water. While the panels will still technically be floating on the water, there will be more space between the solar panels and the surface of the water. 

The Benefits of the Canopy Design 

Utilizing the space above bodies of water has plenty of advantages, but Google is hoping to improve conditions even more. In Tainan City, fishing is a primary economic and agricultural staple and multiple fish farms can be found near the coastline. In order to protect this the fish farms, Google has been experimenting with a new floating solar design that will make it so the panels are hoisted just above the surface. Google is referring to this design as a canopy system 

It is also projected that the canopy solar panels may even increase fishing yields for fishermen in the area. Increased space between the panels and the surface of the water, in addition to increased shade, may provide the perfect environment for local fish to thrive. These findings, found through an experiment conducted by the Fisheries Research Institution and Taiwan Council of Agriculture, only emphasize the logistical benefits of floating solar panels. The project is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2020. 

More Solar Projects from Google 

Google is currently the largest corporation investing in solar energy utility and production. With over 30 solar, wind, and renewable energy projects currently underway worldwide since 2010, it is no surprise that Google is already working to reinvent solar energy as we know it. Mike Terrell, Google’s head of energy and market development, told CNBC that entering into the solar energy market makes “business sense.” Price reduction in the solar market has undoubtedly influenced their decisions over the past decades.  

The project in Taiwan is not the first creative or challenging renewable energy project that Google has become involved in. Google also works with the El Romero Solar PV Plant in Chile to cultivate and purchase solar power. The plant is located in Chile’s remote and extremely dry Atacama Desert, making it both ideal for solar power production, but a challenge in and of itself. 

The international solar production sites themselves are just a part of Google’s overall solar energy involvement. Google also constructs and manages data centers, with the newest being established in Tennessee and Alabama. To create the Tennessee facility, Google has teamed up with Tennessee Valley Authority, NextEra Energy, and Invenergy. This marks one of the largest partnerships Google has entered into yet in the solar energy industry. These and other ground-breaking moves indicate that Google is only just getting started when it comes to solar and renewable energies. 



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