Work Starts On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Farm

London’s Queen Elizabeth II reservoir is home to what will be Europe’s largest floating solar farm; comprising of more than 23,000 solar panels.

The system will cover around 10% of the reservoir (approximately 13 hectares) and have a total installed peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts. The installation is expected to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity in the first 12 months  – equivalent to electricity requirements of around 1,800 homes.

The huge array will also require the deployment of more than 61,000 floats and 177 anchors.

The project is part of Thames Water’s goals to generation 33% of its own electricity by 2020. In 2014/15, the utility generated a total of 12.5% of its electricity requirements from renewables.

“Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment,” said Thames Water’s energy manager, Angus Berry.

Floating solar farm - London

Thames Water has been dabbling in solar for some time. Back in 2011, it announced its intentions of becoming Britain’s largest producer of on-site solar electricity; kicking off with a 450kW solar array at Beckton. The company currently has solar panels on 41 of its sites.

Thames Water also makes good use of sewage sludge; using it to generate power. In 2014/15 it generated 12.1% (151 gigawatt-hours) of its overall electricity needs using this resource.

“We use two methods to create power from sewage sludge. In ‘thermal destruction with energy recovery’, sewage sludge, the solid content of the sewage, is dewatered to form a ‘cake’ which can then be burned to generate power,” states the company.

“Secondly, methane gas, derived from anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, is burned in an engine to generate power, with the heat recycled to heat the sludge digester. This is known as ‘anaerobic digestion followed by combined heat and power”.

Another high profile floating solar plant currently under construction for a water utility in the UK is a United Utilities solar facility on Godley reservoir in Hyde, Greater Manchester. The 3MW installation is expected to generate 2,700 megawatt-hours of electricity each year.