When South Korean officials announced the nation’s comprehensive Green New Deal last year, it included an aggressive plan that would rely on solar and wind power among other advanced technologies to reduce carbon emissions and increase green energy by 30 gigawatts by the middle of this decade. Those goals are beginning to pay off, as a just-released report finds that the global market for floating solar panels will quadruple by 2025. 

The report—released by the Korea Energy Economics Institute in late August, stated that the total power generation that can be delivered by floating solar farms—those that float on the water as opposed to on roof buildings on in fields—had reached more than three gigawatts as of last October. 

Floating solar power has a range of advantages over land-based solar farms, particularly for countries that lack adequate landmass and can free up valuable land for other purposes. In addition, the colling properties of water provide flexibility to operate the solar panels even in regions with a large variance of temperatures and can retain their efficiency even under heat duress. Floating panels also provide shade that reduces the evaporation of water from reservoirs.

So far, nations in the Asian Pacific including Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan, have installed floating solar farms that can power up to 240,000 households. These advantages have attracted significant investments from other nations with limited available land but plenty of water. 

The Institute in its report said it expected the volume of new floating solar farms to grow by another 10 gigawatts, citing data from market researcher Fitch Solutions.

The report noted that identifying appropriate locations for land-based solar panels is becoming more difficult in mountainous countries where residents are resisting the commitment of land to solar panels. The Institute recommended offshore solar power plants as an alternative. 

Indeed, the market for floating solar has been steadily growing in recent years. Floating panels power generation has increased from 1.3 gigawatts in 2018 to more than 2.4 gigawatts by the end of 2019. By the beginning of 2021, the Institute estimated that floating panel solar power at facilities already in operation or in planning would reach 15.5 gigawatts. The countries who make up that production in addition to Korea include China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, India, Taiwan, Greece, the Netherlands, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia. 

The Institute noted that Korea and China led the list of nations when broken down by country. 

The report also noted that Korea’s challenges to growth centered mostly on educating local residents of the environmental safety of floating solar panels. Several analyses by the Korea Environmental Institute concluded that there was no harmful impact on water quality.