Special films with integral photovoltaic modules installed in Cyprus for the first time – Member of the Continental Executive Board Duensing: “Verifiable contribution to environmental protection.” – Potential use: water supplies in hot countries and near airports
Technology company Continental has installed the first floating solar cover in Cyprus, thereby reliably protecting all the water collected in a reservoir in the Limassol region against evaporation and unwanted contamination. At the same time, the photovoltaic modules integrated in the special film generate electricity from sustainable solar energy. This is used to power systems that pump the water. “In doing so, Continental is demonstrating its long-term contribution to environmental and climate protection. There is a huge demand on our planet for off-grid water and power supplies, especially in arid regions. Innovations such as this generate more agricultural products and enable lives to continue cost-effectively,” explains Hans-Jürgen Duensing, who is responsible for the ContiTech division on Continental’s Executive Board. This is the future for water and energy supplies in hot regions with little rainfall.
Self-sufficient electricity and water provision
Portable and process water and the supply of electricity are key elements of social and economic development: for agriculture, hygienic conditions, and commercial initiatives and, in the long term, for education and practical training. The innovative solar film enables water to be transported to remote regions via self-sufficient pumping stations and reservoirs. An additional advantage is that areas without any appreciable access to other energy sources can ensure the autonomous supply of solar energy. “This is the first system to combine an effective means of water protection with climate-protecting energy generation. The floating solar film compensates in a straightforward manner for the water scarcity and lack of power and ensures lower algal growth in the water thanks to the film’s decades-long resistance to UV light,” says Tobias Haarburger, who is responsible within Continental for driving this innovation, explaining the potentials and benefits of the system. This installation offers potential right across the world for both, state-owned and privately owned water supplies in hot countries, for example in Africa or in the Mojave Desert south of Las Vegas in the US.
Special films with photovoltaic modules protect against water evaporation in Cyprus
Working in conjunction with the central Cypriot water authority, Continental has installed the world’s first floating solar film in the Limassol region of southern Cyprus. The water reservoir has an area of 6,500 square meters, is 4.50 meters deep and has been completely covered with the functional film. “That means the stored water, which is used to irrigate agricultural land in the surrounding area, does not evaporate,” says Haarburger, who has a degree in plant engineering and is an expert in water treatment. The first stage of the project in March involved applying 80 photovoltaic modules with a power rating of 20kWp to the film. Around 700 more elements will follow in a second phase. The film used is a three-ply, semi-flexible laminate made of PVC that is strong enough to allow people to walk on it and features decades-long resistance to UV light. There are also immersion pumps from Germany installed on the reservoir that are capable of pumping away any rainwater on the surface.
Continental supplies a product that is easy to install, thanks to the high degree of prefabrication. A digger is all that is needed to excavate the reservoirs. There is no need for costly concreting and large construction sites. The sheets are up to 1.80 m wide and are easily positioned and joined to each other. It is possible to walk on the tear-resistant films, so maintenance work is easy to perform. Wind and sand have little effect on the flat modules. The system has a lifetime of several decades. Discrete floating solar units offer little or no cover for the water.
Such systems are also used, however, to cover water reservoirs near airports. “Flocks of birds that rest on the usually artificial ponds would therefore not impede nearby flight operations,” declares Haarburger, highlighting another additional benefit. Furthermore, the quality of the stored water is improved, since algal growth is prevented. S a result, algae do not clog screens or filters. In addition, any potential odor nuisance is avoided since fermentation or digestion processes can no longer occur.
The innovation is a joint achievement of various experts: engineers and innovation managers from Continental developed the novel system in collaboration with water managers, high-voltage specialists, photovoltaics manufacturers and scientific institutes. Continental was honored with the Inovyn Award in the “Sustainability” category in 2016 for its innovative, energy-generating surface cover for water reservoirs.