Sunlit Sea’s floating solar panel solution accelerates the assembly of floating solar parks at a pace never seen before. “The transition to clean energy needs to happen faster, and we can speed up this process where the sun meets the sea,” says Per Lindberg, CEO of Sunlit Sea.
The benefits of floating solar power, an emerging industry, continue to come to light. Floating solar saves valuable land that can be used for other purposes. In addition, water has a cooling effect, which improves solar panel performance by up to 15 per cent and lowers electricity costs.
Despite its potential, floating solar represents less than 0.5 per cent of the total solar PV installations globally. One challenge is higher system and engineering costs compared to ground-mounted solar parks. Anchoring technology also requires development, and the installations must be able to demonstrate their investment potential.
“Solutions are therefore needed that advance the floating solar industry, both technically and financially,” says Lindberg.
Sunlit Sea uses prefabrication and a clever design to quickly manufacture and deploy its floating solar panels. The company has developed an advanced aluminium float to which solar panels are attached, forming a string of floatable panels. These are packed into shipping containers and shipped to the site.
By preassembling the strings of panels, they can be easily transported, deployed and installed on nearshore waters, completing the solar plant. “Floating solar is very well suited for prefabrication due to the similarities between solar parks,” explains Lindberg.
The streamlined process vastly improves production speed compared to manual onsite production. Initial testing shows that Sunlit Sea’s solution can make the process 17 times faster than current methods. “The rapid assembly reduces exposure to bad weather and lowers expensive construction phase financing and insurance costs,” says Lindberg.
Not only does prefabrication increase assembly speed, but it also guarantees that the strings function properly. Since the strings undergo quality assurance in a controlled environment, problems can be addressed before they are shipped to the site.
Sunlit Sea offers more benefits than just prefabrication. The design also incorporates an optimal choice of materials, power electronics and big data analysis. “Our goal is to promote the adoption of floating solar power and ultimately lower the cost of solar electricity,” says Lindberg.
One step towards this is Sunlit Sea’s ability to calculate “marine grade” performance ratio. Performance ratio (PR) is the measure of efficiency in the solar power industry. By calculating PR specifically for the marine environment, solar solutions become more commercially viable, and thus more attractive to potential financing sources.
Moreover, the solar panel strings are inconspicuous on the water, allowing them to blend into coastal urban environments, including tourist sites. Worker safety is improved as well, as offsite production keeps workers out of high-risk construction situations.
According to the World Bank, there are over 300 floating solar parks worldwide, and this figure is expected to increase by 22 per cent year-over-year on average through 2024.
Sunlit Sea is well positioned to enter this market with a more robust solution than what is currently available. Founded in 2019, the company is now piloting its solution, which is expected to be commercially available in late 2022. While Norway is the testing ground, Sunlit Sea’s most promising markets are sunnier regions such as Central America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
“We are helping the floating solar power industry to mature. This is the perfect environment to pioneer something new,” says Lindberg.