Water is not a surface that immediately springs to mind when contemplating where to install a solar array, however, this may not be the case for much longer thanks to Sunengy’s ground-breaking Liquid Solar Array (LSA) technology. Sunengy hopes to build a pilot LSA plant in India before the end of the year and has enlisted the help of India’s largest integrated private power utility, Tata Power, to help realise this goal.

LSA technology is the brainchild of Sunengy’s executive director and chief technology officer, Phil Connor, who claims its lack of a fixed supporting structure reduces costs and provides ‘on demand’ availability. The floating system utilises traditional concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology lenses, which submerge and cool in bad weather, thus increasing their efficiency and lifespan.

When situated on, and combined with, hydroelectric dams, Connor believes LSA can more than double annual energy generation, “LSA effectively turns a dam into a very large battery, offering free solar storage and opportunity for improved water resource management. LSA needs no heavy materials or huge land acquisitions and is effectively cyclone proof. If India uses just 1% of its 30,000 square kilometers of captured water with our system, we can generate power equivalent to 15 large coal-fired power stations.”

“In our quest to deliver sustainable energy, Tata Power is consistently investing in clean and eco-friendly technologies,” said Tata’s executive director, Banmali Agrawala. “We have partnered with Sunengy, Australia for a pilot plant in India, which is concentrated photovoltaic solar technology that floats on water. This nascent technology will be demonstrated in the natural environment; it utilises the water surface for mounting and does not compete with land that can be used for other purposes.”

Although Sunengy is primarily aiming LSA at hydroelectric power clients, it is also targeting mining sites and off-grid regions. Construction of the pilot plant in India will commence in August 2011, and, if successful, Sunengy plans to establish a larger system in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia by mid-2012 before going into full-scale commercial production.

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