One of the world’s largest floating solar panel farms spans over 45 football fields — and could be the key to energy production

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A giant solar panel flotilla in Singapore is proving its viability two years into operations. 

The benchmarks reported by developer Sembcorp so far include producing enough power for 16,000 four-room flats and avoiding more than 35,000 tons of air pollution a year. 

It is Singapore’s first system of this size, boasting 122,000 floating solar panels on more than 111 acres, per Sembcorp. 

That’s about the size of 45 football fields, according to a 2021 Reuters report that documented the system’s debut. It was billed then as being able to power Singapore’s five water treatment plants. Now, Sembcorp reports that Singapore has a 100% “green waterworks system,” thanks to the flotilla. 

The idea developed in 2011, according to experts in a Sembcorp video clip shared on YouTube. It shows the unique design concept, including walkways over the water that allow crews to maintain the hundreds of thousands of suncatchers. 

“We are definitely looking forward to a greener future,” Ngo Yun Fun, Sembcorp assistant manager in engineering integrated solutions, said in the clip.  

Floating solar panels are also being developed in Europe, Asia, and North America, sometimes placed on unused brine pits and other forgotten water bodies created by past industrial efforts. Another project includes panels that move with the sun to maximize solar power. 

Reuters reports that the floating systems perform up to 15% better than traditional rooftop systems because the water cools them. They also escape shade from nearby structures. 

The air pollution saved by the system is equivalent to removing 7,000 cars from the road a year. The developers worked with environmental groups to ensure that there is no negative impact on the water and its biodiversity, per the clip. 

“It was carefully designed to improve airflow and allow sunlight passing through the water [to reach aquatic life],” Sembcorp official Jen Tan said in the Reuters story. 

The news agency noted that the solar panels are made to catch sun power for 25 years. Maintenance crews even use drones to help monitor the system. 

It’s a unique combination of water, electricity, and sunlight that is proving to be a safe, renewable energy maker. 

“When the project was awarded to us, you get that feeling that you got to make it happen,” Yun Fun said in the clip. 

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