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Why solar farms of the future may float on water

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By Joseph Bennington-Castro

As they’ve become cheaper and more efficient, electricity-generating solar panels have popped up all over the United States. But some experts say it would be better if new photovoltaic panels were placed not only on parcels of land and rooftops but also on reservoirs and other bodies of water.

Floating photovoltaic panels — or “floatovoltaics,” as some call the devices — could generate large amounts of electricity without taking up valuable real estate, experts say.

Solar panels generate about 1 percent of the nation’s energy needs. New research by scientists at the federal government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that floatovoltaics installed on just one-fourth of the nation’s manmade reservoirs would be able to generate about 10 percent of U.S. energy needs.

“This is a strong tool in the toolbox that we can utilize for expanding our photovoltaic portfolio in the U.S.,” said Robert Spencer, a data scientist at the lab and the leader of the research.

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