“We jokingly call it a giant Lego set or a giant puzzle,” D3Energy Managing Director Stetson Tchividjian remarked on the floating solar array behind him.

The floating PV array was built row-by-row over the retention pond behind Orange County’s Southern Regional Water Supply Facility. The 1.2 MW project powers the county facility.

“What you’re looking at here is the largest floating solar array in the Southeast U.S.,” said Tchividjian. “It directly offsets the consumption of the water plant.”

More than 40 DISTRIBUTECH International attendees got an up-close at the project, which in total includes just over 2,000 solar panels. There are 66 anchors all the way around the manmade pond to secure the array in place.

“What we do when we design the anchoring system is think of like a mooring system for a boat,” Tchividjian told attendees. “You take into account the highest water level possible and then the lowest water flow possible. And then you have enough slack in those mooring lines for that array to be able to rise and fall.”

D3Energy, which is exclusively a floating solar developer, built the project last year. Tchividjian believes floating solar has a “great story.”

One drawback of ground-mounted solar is it needs a lot of space, with proposed projects often receiving pushback from neighbors. Tchividjian said that makes floating solar a great alternative.

“When you start looking at places like Orlando or urban areas, the idea of finding a lot of space to put solar becomes more and more difficult,” he said. “This idea of utilizing bodies of water we have to deploy solar has really become an appeal.”

While floating solar is generally more expensive to build than its ground-mounted cousin, Tchividjian said the benefits include lower O&M costs.

For one, hardly any vegetation management is required. Because the panels are out on the water, they are also naturally staying cleaner compared to a grass field, where soiling is more a concern.

Tchividjian said crews only need to access the PV system at the water supply facility for maintenance once or twice a year.

“Very little love and care is required for these systems, which we’ve seen as a big plus for them,” he said.

Tchividjian added that because the panels are so close to the water, they stay a lot cooler than roof or ground-mounted systems would. Because of that cooling effect, he said the panels are more efficient and produce more power.

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