ARKANSAS, Dec 23 (Future Headlines)- Duke Energy, a leading energy company committed to innovation and sustainability, has launched a groundbreaking initiative in Florida – the state’s inaugural floating solar farm. This pioneering project, situated on an existing cooling pond in Polk County, represents a significant leap forward in harnessing the power of solar energy to meet the region’s growing electricity needs. The almost 1-megawatt (MW) floating solar array stands as a testament to Duke Energy’s commitment to advancing renewable energy solutions and promoting environmental stewardship.

The floating solar farm, located at the Duke Energy Hines Energy Complex in Bartow, southeast of Lakeland, is a transformative venture for the state of Florida. Positioned on a former phosphate mining pit, now repurposed into a cooling pond, the project encompasses nearly two acres of the water’s surface. This innovative undertaking features more than 1,800 solar panels, strategically arranged to float on the pond and capture the abundant sunlight, converting it into clean electricity.

The modular design of the floating solar array is a key feature of the project. The solar farm was assembled on land, showcasing Duke Energy’s commitment to efficient construction processes. Subsequently, the modular system was anchored in the pond, creating a visually striking yet environmentally sustainable energy infrastructure. The project’s thoughtful design includes walkways between every other row of panels, facilitating easy access for maintenance and inspections.

One of the notable advancements incorporated into the floating solar farm is the use of bifacial solar panels. These specialized panels, capable of capturing sunlight on both sides, have demonstrated a remarkable improvement in energy production. Duke Energy’s choice of bifacial panels enables the floating solar array to generate 10-20% more power than traditional single-sided panels. This enhanced efficiency contributes to the project’s overall capacity to provide a substantial amount of clean electricity.

The floating solar farm in Polk County is not merely an experimental venture but a practical solution to address the energy needs of the local community. With a capacity of almost 1 MW, the solar array is designed to generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 100 households in the region. This tangible impact aligns with Duke Energy’s mission to deliver sustainable and reliable energy solutions to the communities it serves.

The realization of Florida’s first floating solar farm was the result of meticulous planning, engineering, and construction efforts. The project, from conception to grid connectivity, spanned approximately six months. During this period, Duke Energy’s teams worked diligently to assemble the modular floating solar farm on land. Once the assembly phase was completed, the solar array was anchored in the cooling pond, marking a significant milestone in the project’s implementation.

The floating solar pilot in Polk County is part of Duke Energy’s broader initiative known as the Vision Florida program. This comprehensive program serves as a testing ground for various renewable energy projects, aiming to explore and implement innovative solutions. In addition to the floating solar array, Duke Energy’s Vision Florida program includes initiatives related to green hydrogen and battery energy storage. By diversifying its portfolio of renewable projects, Duke Energy demonstrates a commitment to identifying and deploying sustainable energy solutions that align with the evolving needs of the energy landscape.

While the floating solar farm in Polk County is Florida’s first, Duke Energy has previously explored the potential of floating solar in other regions. Notably, the company conducted a pilot project in North Carolina in collaboration with the U.S. Army. These earlier endeavors have contributed valuable insights and experiences that have informed the development and implementation of the floating solar pilot in Polk County.

Floating solar panels offer unique environmental benefits that extend beyond electricity generation. The panels, positioned on the water’s surface, benefit from natural cooling provided by the water. This cooling effect enhances the efficiency of the solar panels, resulting in increased energy production. Additionally, the presence of floating solar arrays helps reduce water evaporation, preserving this critical resource. Furthermore, by covering portions of the water surface, the solar panels limit the growth of algae, contributing to the overall ecological balance of the cooling pond.

Editing by Sarah White