Somewhere on the pristine waters of Lake Neuchâtel, along the border between France and Switzerland, the future of solar technology is setting out to sea. Space for solar panels being at something of a premium in Switzerland, Swiss energy company Viteos and their partner Nolaris are building three floating Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) “islands”.
Each island, anchored to the bottom of the lake by concrete blocks, will be twenty-five meters across and house one hundred solar panels, each of will be inclined at a
Rather than traditional solar panels, which generate power through the photovoltaic effect, the islands will use CSP panels, which direct the sun’s energy toward a tube of fluid to bring it to its boiling point. Once the fluid has turned to steam it is used to drive a turbine, which generates electricity.45 degree angle. As the sun moves across the sky, the islands will rotate in order to track its movement.
To bring the power back to shore, Viteos will tether the islands to power inverters which will feed electricity to the Swiss electrical grid.
Over the course of the next 25 years, Viteos will use the islands as a test bed for the future of solar power stations. One of the main goals of the project is to determine whether current CSP technology can remain effective while withstanding the elements, a rather important qualification for any solar panel design.
Currently, Viteos and Nolaris plan to complete construction of the three islands by August of this year, with trials set to begin in early 2014. If successful, the future of Swiss energy might find its home bobbing on the surface of the country’s 250-plus lakes.
Learn more about CSP in this Video:
Images and Video Courtesy of Viteos & the National Renewable Energy Labratory