Floating Solar Panels
A huge disadvantage of solar power systems is that the power density of a single photovoltaic solar panel is very low. All solar panels have different efficiency ratings based on the quality of the panel and the solar rating of the location of the solar panel, but a good estimate is that one square foot of a photovoltaic solar panel produces around 10 watts of power.
10 watts of power is not very much, this is why solar panel systems usually need to be a collection of many solar panels to be an effective supplier of electricity. In a study based on world electricity demand in 2009, it would take about 193,000 square miles of photovoltaic solar panels to supply the world with electricity. This would take an area of land about 30,000 square miles larger than the state of California. Of course, more efficient solar panels and perfect weather conditions could reduce this land area, but regardless, it would take a lot of land area to power the world with solar power.
This is why some smaller countries have considered looking towards floating solar panel systems. With less extra land space to afford, some green conscious countries may look towards the water. The technology of floating solar panel systems are improving, with the big challenge being avoiding damage from bad weather, and avoiding disruption to the natural ecosystems. We have already seen some floating solar panel systems being used in the reservoirs of hydroelectric dam systems. These areas are special because the natural ecosystems have already been slightly disrupted, engineers and maintenance crews are already nearby, and the floating solar systems can provide clean energy to the hydro-power plant.
Wind turbines have long ago made their way into the ocean, it might now be time for solar panels to follow in countries that can’t afford to lose any more precious land space.