The global floating PV (FPV) market will almost quadruple by 2027, from 1.6GW in 2021 to 6GW, led by swelling demand in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in Europe and the US, according to a new report by US research firm Global Industry Analysts.

Spearheaded by mainly China and also Japan, FPV demand in the Asia-Pacific region will surge from 1.3GW last year to 4.9GW in 2027 followed by Europe (190MW to 487MW), the US (52.4MW to 219.3MW), and the rest of the world (75.2MW to 343MW).

Introduced more than a decade ago, the FPV concept “took time to take off on account of technical challenges but has started gaining better acceptance over the years”, wrote the report’s authors.

While not suitable for all man-made or natural aquatic environments, FPV projects are being installed on surfaces of dam reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and relatively shallow near-shore ocean.

Global demand is being driven by increasing government emphasis on clean energy development to help address climate change and land constraints for solar projects. Government subsidies and tax benefits will help the sector gain scale in some regions.

In the US, for example, more than 24,000 bodies of water that are man-made with nearby roads and other infrastructure could be suitable. This could enable more clean energy development in land-constrained New England or in California, where zoning laws have put large swaths of private and public properties off-limits for solar.

The use of FPV systems also can reduce water evaporation and prevent the formation of algae blooms that harm fish populations, important considerations in some locations globally as temperatures rise.

Higher capacity factors can result than those for rooftop solar where shading from nearby buildings and other structures can limit panels’ efficiency and output.

The report cautions that floating solar does pose challenges. One is the potential negative effects on marine ecosystems from the obstruction of sunlight. Another is the vulnerability of panels and systems to bad weather, as occurred in 2017 when an installation near Osaka, Japan, was badly damaged by a typhoon, or potential ice build-up.

Cost-efficient and easy to replace stationary panels will dominate the global market for FPV applications over the next five years, according to the report. Tracking systems will gain popularity in certain applications as they are higher in efficiency and more durable.