Market Analysis

Floating Solar Photovoltaic on the Rise

May 19, 2020

A series on emerging energy trends and opportunities from IFC

As a clean, green, renewable source of energy, solar photovoltaic power is an essential pillar in efforts to address climate change. Solar panels—mounted on rooftops or as part of solar farms—are a common sight today. Some of these are vast, such as the 1,650-megawatt Benban Solar Park in Egypt, which was completed in November 2019. IFC invested and mobilized more than $650 million in the project.

But solar panels do not necessarily have to be mounted on the ground. Solar panels can also be mounted on platforms that float on bodies of water, such as reservoirs, lakes, and sometimes, if conditions are right, on the surfaces of oceans or seas.

It should come as no surprise to learn that floating solar farms are more challenging and costly to build and operate than land-based ones. Yet floating solar capacity is growing, and quickly—from 70 megawatts of peak power (MWp) in 2015 to 1,300 in 2018. Today, there are more than 300 floating solar installations worldwide. A report by Wood Mackenzie, a global research firm, estimates that global demand for floating solar power is expected to grow by 22 percent year-over-year on average from 2019 through 2024.