The solar industry is pushing for simplifications for the installation of floating photovoltaic systems. The area restrictions for the so-called floating PV systems that have been in force since the beginning of the year are disproportionately restrictive, said the general manager of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW), Carsten Körnig, the German Press Agency.

The use of this new system category is severely hampered by the amendment to the Water Resources Act. Since January, such systems may not cover more than 15 percent of the water surface and must be at least 40 meters from the shore. Körnig spoke out in favor of deleting the new regulation.

In the opinion of the BSW, possible environmental impacts of planned plants are already sufficiently considered in the municipal approval process. Approvals would be provided with the conditions required from the point of view of nature conservation or water management law. The BSW referred to a study by a member company, according to which the theoretical technical potential in Germany is 20 to 25 gigawatts of generation capacity. “The amendment reduces the potential to around one gigawatt.”

The federal government’s expansion targets already require an annual PV expansion of 22 gigawatts from 2025. “In our opinion, the floating PV should also be allowed to make its contribution to this, as long as neither nature conservation nor other forms of use of the water body are significantly impaired,” continued Körnig.

New photovoltaic strategy

According to the North Rhine-Westphalian state company Energy4Climate, floating PV in Germany has so far only been installed on artificial or significantly modified bodies of water such as quarry ponds. As of April 2022, a brochure lists eight systems nationwide. The largest with an output of 3 megawatts is located in Haltern in Westphalia. The world’s largest plants are in Asia. “But also in Europe, for example in the Netherlands, large parks are increasingly being built,” says the magazine.

A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) sees great potential for floating PV in the approximately 500 open-pit lakes used in opencast lignite mining. The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia takes a similar view: “Floating photovoltaic systems offer considerable potential for the expansion of solar energy, especially here in North Rhine-Westphalia with many excavation, extraction and opencast mining lakes,” said Economics and Energy Minister Mona Neubaur (Greens) when asked by the dpa . “We want to develop this quickly.”

The Federal Ministry of Economics wants to present a new photovoltaic strategy in May. A draft has been under discussion for several weeks. On the subject of floating PV, it states that the new high requirements meant that floating PV projects could not be developed. “Here, moderate readjustment of the requirements from the Water Resources Act is also necessary in Germany,” it continues.

Today, the operator of the system in Haltern, the quartz works raw materials company, wants to report on its experiences with the so-called floating PV system after almost a year of operation.