Italian Engineer Creates Floating Islands of Solar Panels

by on April 24th, 2013
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Marco Rosa-Clot, a professor at Florence University in Italy, has, according to the AFP newswire, built a small island of floating solar panels that appear to solve two problems associated with traditional solar panels. The first is heat distribution. Most solar panels that sit on rooftops get too hot from sitting in the sun all day. Thus, a means must be built into them to disperse the heat so that the solar arrays won’t melt. The second is the unsightlyness of many solar arrays, especially when made into farms. Rosa-Clot gets around that problem by building his “islands” in out of the way abandoned quarries that are most often below the level of the ground that surrounds them. The end result, says, the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), is something that is pretty enough to be compared to water lilies.

Solar panels work by chemically changing the energy found in sunlight or solar radiation, into electrical energy. Thus, to work efficiently, they need to not just in the sun, but aimed at it as it travels across the sky. And that’s just what Rosa-Clot’s panels do. They are all set in random fashion atop a floating platform, and each has a small computer built into it that allows the panel to follow the suns path. And because it’s floating on top of a body of water, there are no trees to block the sun. LAGI says it’s like watching sunflowers in action, with each of the panels looking like flower petals, always facing the sun, and seemingly, almost always appearing to smile.

Rosa-Clots calls the whole thing a decidedly unromantic, The Floating Tracking Cooling Concentrator (FTCC), and his aim is to provide new sources of electricity without taking up more ground space and to do so without contributing further to other kinds of pollution. He tells AFP that one small island is capable of generating enough electricity for an entire apartment complex and only costs about $65,000 to build. He adds that his system costs 20% less to build than conventional systems because it uses water from the quarry to cool the arrays, and thus doesn’t need heat sinks and other such hardware.

In the pilot project, the first of his islands sits atop the water in a shallow quarry, which allows for it to be anchored to the bottom. Other islands could be anchored from the side, or even be made to move around on top of the water if need be to ensure a constant stream of sunlight.


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