East Green Energy has completed its first floating solar panel installation, thought to be only the second in the country.

The Suffolk-based renewable energy firm successfully installed the 50kW array of 192 panels on a reservoir in Norfolk, where it will provide power to an irrigation pump as well as the national grid. The solution was chosen for the project as it would keep valuable farming land free for use and according to Linda Grave, director for East Green Energy, the technology is well suited to the location.

“The main thing was not to use valuable farming land and because the irrigation pumps are working so hard in the summer and using up a lot of power, it’s just the ideal marriage between the generating period of the solar PV and the usage of that irrigation pump,” she said.

As well as freeing up land, the natural cooling effect of the water helps to ensure the panels have improved production performance. The array also provides benefits to the site, with the shade produced by the system reducing surface evaporation and algae growth.

The installation is moored like a boat, with each panel floating independently and able to withstand significant waves during periods of severe weather. The array is likely to be inspected more regularly as a result, in addition to regular maintenance visits. However, Grave said that maintaining the install was easier than expected. “Getting out to the pontoon and cleaning it with a soft brush when the water is on hand is actually much easier than cleaning barn roofs so it’s not too much of an issue,” she said

Floating solar systems are currently more expensive than traditional ground-mounted installations due to the injection-moulded floatation devices used. But Grave expects these prices to come down over time as more manufacturing facilities become available, with only two sites currently able to produce the product.

East Green Energy has planning permission for two more floating sites, both of which will be 150KW projects that Grave hopes will be accepted into the January 2016 feed-in tariff rate.