Watch: White Pine completes a floating solar project, one of the largest in the US


White Pine Renewables has completed a floating solar array in northern California that the company claims to be the largest in the United States.

The 4.8 MW Healdsburg Floating Solar Project was installed on ponds at the City of Healdsburg’s wastewater treatment plant. It  will deliver energy to the city under under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The project site and floating PV approach, a largely underutilized technology, were chosen to help reduce evaporation and algae growth at the ponds, benefitting nearby vineyards that use the water for irrigation.

The solar-generated electricity will cover around 8% of the city’s total energy demand, moving it toward a goal of 60% renewable energy usage before 2030.

Noria Energy co-developed the project with White Pine and provided installation services. The behind-the-meter project’s entire installation, from procurement to commissioning, was completed in less than six months.

Bragging rights

The Healdsburg Floating Solar Project apparently can claim the title as largest floating solar project in the country. The previous claimant was the 4.4. MW floating array in Sayreville, New Jersey, installed by Ciel & Terre USA. That project, just outside of New York City, is also sited on a pond at the city’s water treatment facility and offsets the power use at the facility, as well as a handful of other government facilities.

Floating solar has been pegged by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) as a “rapidly emerging technology.” A report outlined the technology’s potential to produce just under 10% of current electricity generation.

The technology also offers generally higher energy production, due to the cooling effects of water and wind. Even so, the floating solar has not reached widespread adoption, due in part to higher overall costs than traditional PV plants.

However, according to Stetson Tchividjian, director of business development at D3Energy, a floating PV developer, this could change as floating solar reaches price parity with land-based PV. Tchividjian also points out that floating solar has lower operation and management costs and no land costs.

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