UK engineers building Europe’s largest floating solar farm

A giant floating solar farm on the outskirts of London will be the largest facility of its kind in Europe, its developers have claimed.

floating solar farm
The floating PV array at Walton-On-Thames will be Europe’s largest

Currently being installed on Thames Water’s Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Walton-On-Thames the project is the result of a collaboration between Thames Water, and specialist solar developers Ennoviga Solar and Lightsource Renewable Energy, which is funding the initiative.

The array is made up 23,000 photovoltaic panels which are being mounted on a pontoon consisting of 61,000 floats and 177 anchors. The 57,500 square metre structure will cover around a tenth of the surface of the reservoir (an area equivalent to 8 football pitches).

According to Thames Water, when up and running the facility will have a total installed peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts and is expected to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours in its first year. This electricity will be used to help power the nearby water treatment works.

Floating farm godley
United Utilities installed a floating PV farm near Hyde, Greater Manchester in 2015

The project is part of a wider effort by the utility firm to reduce its reliance on the grid. Last year, it generated 12.5 per cent of its electricity requirements from renewables.

As large solar installations have grown in popularity, developers are increasingly eyeing up the potential of siting them on reservoirs.

Last year, United Utilities installed a 45,500 square metre facility on the surface of Godley reservoir in Hyde, Greater Manchester. Whilst the UK’s first floating solar farm, an 800 panel pilot array, was installed on the surface of a reservoir in Wargrave, Berkshire back in 2014.

Meanwhile, engineers at Japanese firm Kyocera are in the process of building a plant that will dwarf even Thames Water’s latest project: a 180,000 square metre facility in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture that’s set for completion in 2018.

Artist’s impression of Kyocera’s 180,000 square metre facility in Japan