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Why land-constrained Southeast Asia will see floating PV play a critical role

Floating solar PV capacity is expected to play a “critical role” in fulfilling Southeast Asia’s overall solar expansion, with countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand well positioned to use their unique geographies to support the technology.

This is the key finding from a new analysis from independent energy research firm, Rystad Energy, which predicts that Southeast Asia will account for 10% of the broader Asia region’s total solar capacity by 2030 – including ground-mounted, rooftop, and floating.

But unlike the rest of Asia, where land for ground-mounted solar projects is more frequently available, available land in Southeast Asia is generally set aside for agricultural purposes, leading solar developers to look offshore for potential solar locations.

Nine of the world’s top ten largest floating solar projects are currently located in either China or Taiwan.

Many more projects, however, are being proposed for the south-east Asia region, building on the example of the 145MW Cirata floating solar PV project in West Java, Indonesia which was commissioned in November 2023 and is the world’s third largest.

There are also a number of smaller floating solar PV projects across Southeast Asia, making up the 500MW worth of operational floating solar PV projects already in operation across Southeast Asia.

“FPVs have emerged as a game-changer for Southeast Asia, catalysing the region’s push towards clean energy by maximizing its abundant solar resources and overcoming limited land availability,” said Jun Yee Chew, Head of Asia renewables and power research at Rystad Energy.

“Their modular design allows for integration with existing hydropower dams and unlocks tremendous opportunities for hydropower-rich nations like Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.

“Additionally, with land rights a major deterrent facing solar developers in Southeast Asia, as much of the land is used for agriculture, FPVs provide a solution for the coexistence of solar farms and agriculture.”

The pipeline of solar projects proposed across Southeast Asia out to 2030 is dominated by ground-mounted and rooftop solar, but more and more countries are looking to add floating solar PV by the end of the decade.

Thailand is currently serving as a potential example for other countries in the region, relying primarily on private power purchase agreements (PPAs) to contract floating solar PV projects and procuring electricity – similar to the rooftop solar leasing model.

This model serves as an example for other developers and utilities looking to navigate the balance between agricultural needs and expanding renewable energy generation.

Moreover, relying on private leasing and PPAs helps to ensure developers are not scrambling to create more land for use which, in a region densely populated by rainforests, helps to avoid further deforestation.

Rystad Energy expects to see Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand lead Southeast Asia’s push into floating solar.

The Philippines is particularly well suited to develop floating solar PV, able to make use of the many large inland lakes which predominant across their archipelago, such as Laguna Lake, which Rystad Energy claims boasts nearly 3GW of capacity.

The Philippines-based Acen is on track to become the leading floating solar PV developer in the region by the end of the decade. Already the company is working to commission a 1GW project on Laguna Lake, along with a 200MW project in the Filipino province of Rizal.

When these two projects come online later this decade, Acen will boast a floating solar PV portfolio in Southeast Asia in excess of 3GW.

Similarly, Indonesia’s high use of hydropower could be complemented with floating solar PV, matching the company’s solar ambitions. The country already has a 1.8GW floating solar PV project set to be built at the Duriangkang reservoir in Batam, which is being led by Spanish-headquartered EDP Renewables.


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