Hybrid systems of floating solar panels and hydropower plants may hold the technical potential to produce a significant portion of the electricity generated annually across the globe, according to an analysis by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The researchers estimate that adding floating solar panels to bodies of water that are already home to hydropower stations could produce as much as 7.6 terawatts of potential power a year from the solar PV systems alone, or about 10,600 terawatt-hours of potential annual generation. Those figures do not include the amount generated from hydropower.
For comparison, global final electricity consumption was just over 22,300 terawatt-hours in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the International Energy Agency.
“This is really optimistic,” said Nathan Lee, a researcher with NREL’s Integrated Decision Support group and lead author of a new paper published