The sight of solar panels on rooftops and buildings is becoming more and more familiar to us.
There is a greater understanding among the general population of the benefits of solar energy and renewable energy, and the desire to 'go green' is becoming prolific among homes and businesses alike. It is perhaps not surprising then that large utility providers, such as Thames Water and United Utilities, are now utilising the power of solar panels to decrease their carbon footprint and become more environmentally friendly.
When Thames Water set themselves the target of self-generating a full third of their power requirements by 2020 it was a laudable goal. It was also an ambitious one.
How could a company like Thames Water, the UK's largest provider of water and wastewater services, self-sufficiently produce a full third of their own power requirements?
Thames Water supply London and the Thames Valley with approximately 2,600 million litres of tap water. With all that water floating about the obvious answer would seem to be hydropower. Yet Thames Water have turned to a different form of renewable energy: solar power.
London's Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Walton-on-Thames will soon be home to the largest floating solar PV array in Europe. The island will see over 23,000 solar panels installed on the 6.3MWp system. This floating island of solar power is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016 and the finished system will cover roughly one tenth of the surface of the reservoir. The energy produced will go to a local water treatment facility.
The project is the most expansive example of floating solar energy production in the UK to date. It is an exciting milestone in the world of renewable energy, and comes on the heels of United Utilities constructing a similar floating array of around 12,000 panels on a Manchester reservoir in 2015. The advent of such elaborate floating systems of solar panels open up a myriad of possibilities where solar PV power systems are concerned. Who knows, installations such Thames Water's Queen Elizabeth II array of solar paneling may soon become as common as the sight of solar panels on our rooftops and buildings.