Sunengy, with a chance of typhoons

Yes, it floats on water, and has a Fresnel lens from the local high school projectionist club, but what about typhoons and lesser gales? No mention of that. Somehow, this bullet point from the Overview page doesn’t seem reassuring:

Floating the system on water reduces the need for expensive supporting structures to protect it from high winds. The lenses submerge in winds above 60km/hr and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency.

I see deep water horizons in the future.

Sunengy, Australia partners with Tata Power to build the first floating solar plant in India

Indian trial of a unique Australian solar system will move it towards full production


0.28 scale aluminium prototype

Australian solar power company Sunengy Pty Limited has entered into a partnership with India’s largest integrated private power utility, Tata Power that will allow it build a pilot plant for its low-cost, floating-on-water, solar technology in India by the end of this year.

Sunengy Chairman and Executive Director of Business Development, Peter Wakeman, said that Tata Power, a flagship company of Tata Group, has partnered with Sunengy for its interest in its patented Liquid Solar Array (LSA) technology. Mr Wakeman said the deal was significant for the future use of solar globally because it allows Sunengy to demonstrate the practicality of its technology in one of the world’s most promising solar power markets.

The LSA was invented by Phil Connor, Sunengy Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer and a passionate advocate for solar power for 45 years. Mr Connor said that when located on and combined with hydroelectric dams, LSA provides the breakthroughs of reduced cost and ‘on demand’ 24/7 availability that are necessary for solar power to become widely used. The LSA uses traditional Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) technology – a lens and a small area of solar cells that tracks the sun throughout the day, like a sunflower. Floating the LSA on water reduces the need for expensive supporting structures to protect it from high winds. The lenses submerge in bad weather and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency and life-span. According to Mr Connor, hydropower supplies 87 percent of the world’s renewable energy and 16 percent of the world’s power but is limited by its water resource. He said an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area and supply an additional six to eight hours of power per day. Modelling by Sunengy shows, for example, that a 240 MW LSA system could increase annual energy generation at the Portuguese hydro plant, Alqueva, by 230%. “LSA effectively turns a dam into a very large battery, offering free solar storage and opportunity for improved water resource management,” Mr Connor said. “LSA needs no heavy materials or huge land acquisitions and is effectively cyclone proof,” he said. “If India uses just one percent of its 30,000 square kilometers of captured water with our system, we can generate power equivalent to 15 large coal-fired power stations.”

Mr Banmali Agrawala, Executive Director, Tata Power said “In our quest to deliver sustainable energy, Tata Power is consistently investing in clean and eco-friendly technologies. We have partnered with Sunengy, Australia for a pilot plant in India, which is concentrated photovoltaic solar technology that floats on water. This nascent technology will be demonstrated in the natural environment; it utilises the water surface for mounting and does not compete with land that can be used for other purposes.”

Mr Wakeman said that the primary market for LSA is the provision of industrial scale electricity via hydropower facilities. Other markets include mining sites as well as villages and remote communities reliant on diesel power generators.

Construction of the pilot plant in India will commence in August 2011. Sunengy plans to establish a larger LSA system in the NSW Hunter Valley in mid 2012 before going into full production.


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I cannot enumerate the reasons why this will not work.

Eric Anderson

“. . . an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area . . .”
That’s quite a claim — will be interesting to see if the figures bear out.

Lew Skannen

“Modelling by Sunengy shows…”
That is the first thing that trips my BS alert.
I really get the impression that these things are designed with all the nifty tracking and submerging tricks just so they appeal to the innercity sandal wearers who are happy to lobby the government to subsidise projects which are unlikely to stand up in the real world.
I doubt they expect for a moment that this is going to be viable, it is just a tax milking device.


OT but I am very confused. This graph posted on the Blackboard purports to show global warming. What amazes me is that from 1980 to 1998 there seems to be significant cooling. I thought according to Hansen it was way above anomaly?
There is warming from 1998 to 2007 but then it cools again please help LOL

CRS, Dr.P.H.

….trust me, the phytoplankton won’t like the competition for sunlight.

Lonnie E. Schubert

It might work if the rotating motors are durable enough and easy to repair or replace. Inexpensive is the key. I wonder if it is inexpensive enough. I don’t like calling it a battery. It obviously ain’t a battery. I’m not sure I can tell the point of such a statement. Anyway, I suspect solar will eventually be adopted in large scale economically, but it will still only be a specialist, never able to meet much of the overall need.

Mike Bromley

I can just imagine the clutter along the Indian coastline after a bunch of traumatized, and submerged, solar panels come ashore during a tsunami, scything their way inland on the front of the wave.


“effectively cyclone proof” Sort of like effectively unsinkable? And hey… it’s “like a sunflower”

Walter Schneider

The water bodies that they will float those arrays on won’t have any waves?

Baa Humbug

I’m all for these trials as long as my tax dollars aren’t used to pick winners like an addicted gambler.
“It’s the 15th of December 2013, in the news today, the $125 million Sunengy solar power plant at Wivenhoe Dam was smashed to pieces today by debris rushing in with flood waters.”
“In what’s been called a one in a thousand year rainfall event, the dam levels rose from 75% to a critical 245% in just 48 hours.”
“A spokesman for Sunengy blamed the dam operators for opening all the floodgates causing the solar panels to be flushed out. Many panel parts were found 15km down river in numerous Brisbane backyards.”

Willis Eschenbach

Anyone who thinks that floating something on the water is the way to protect it from high winds is … well … breathtakingly ignorant of the real world. Submerged or not, waves will rip the carp out of that setup. And any wave will destroy the focusing of the system. What a joke.
It’s a scam to attract investors, it’ll never work. Tata Group should run, not walk, the other way.


Anthony: thank for posting most of my OT postings. My dad was a meteorologist and I know he would be spinning in his grave with this AGW stuff. However this graph of satellite temps from 1980 (used to justify AGW) is very, very telling.
My bet is that it will also be removed by the person at the blackboard, even after he removed the other one. BTW not necessary to post this if is getting to heavy/irrelevant.

The sea gives and the sea takes. Oh wait Tata group, aha…. nuff said.


That submerging trick … how well does that work against ocean vessels and fauna?


Did they say how they were going to plug this into the grid? Whatever they said, don’t believe it.

Grumpy Old Man

Tata Group didn’t get where they are today though altruism. As the Indian government rarely use their own money, is the UN being tapped for development funding for the Indian project?
Can any of the Aussie posters give an idea of just how much Aussie taxpayers money is being poured into the Hunter Valley project?


Willis Eschenbach says:
March 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Anyone who thinks that floating something on the water is the way to protect it from high winds is … well … breathtakingly ignorant of the real world.
I can’t wait to see the “kite” effect of that lens when the wind is coming from the opposite direction to the sun.


Tata….hmmmm…now were did I hear that name before? Tata, Tata?
Why is it that the name Pachauri comes up in my mind? And “smutty novel” ?


Precision optics floating on impure water?
They evidentally have never owned a boat and would not have the foggy what I am talking about. ☺

Neil Jones

Salt crystals anyone?
Even “fresh” water contains dissolved salts and splashes will result in them coating the photovoltaic cells.


I hesitate to pass judgement on the technical feasibility of the project simply because it looks like their *intent* is to have these built in Hydropower dam reservoirs… this would give easy access for repair, and if they have a bouyancy system that submerges them when the winds pick up, then it’s unlikely that hydropower reservoirs are going to *frequently* have large waves…
OTOH, I have almost zero confidence in the long term ability of this project to generate significant amounts of power… who is going to clean these lenses… and how, when they develop buildup from the things living the water they submerge in? Have these people ever looked at a boat hull under the waterline? It doesn’t take much or take long, either… And not just on top of the focusing lens, but on the actual photovoltaic cells as well… If we build them in the desert someone has to go around periodically and clean them off… it’d seem like it would be a *lot* harder working on cleaning a raft of these things.

Roger Carr

This story was well worth posting even on the sole criteria of allowing Anthony to strut his stuff as a subbie.
“Sunengy, with a chance of typhoons”
They don’t come much better than that!


There are many reasons why solar generated energy (I know some will quibble about the word ‘generated’, but solar is no different than water in this respect) is good and beneficial, but transmission is not one of them. It is insanely expensive and wasteful. On the other hand, warming a swimming pool, hot wash water, etc, is an incredibly efficient use of solar energy. Likewise the micro-generation of electricity in calculators, similar electronics, remote communication devices and lights, etc is perfectly justified and market proven. I have several calculators in excess of 25 years that function perfectly with photovoltaics. And the same will work for single buildings, and I suspect as a booster for transmission and communication lines one day.
But the day when it is more than a “feel good” source of transmitted electricity for a city is a very long way away.

Fergus T. Ambrose

micro-lending to produce a micro-bidet

Cassandra King

Oh dear!
The lens will last about one week before they are so coated in salt rime that they will be little more than useless.
It is nothing more than a pipe dream money siphoning technique, money goes in one end of the scam and when the scam is found to be unworkable the money has already mysteriously disappeared and the scamsters have come up with other far more fantabulistic ideas.
I have an idea for producing electricity with a magic wand and all I need to for this miracle to work is full funding, lets say a million bucks and ten years, if it doesnt pan out at least I got the million bucks.

Doug in Seattle

This smells like another Euro carbon credit scam.


Bulldust says:
That submerging trick … how well does that work against ocean vessels and fauna?
I was wondering this too. The whole thing looks so fragile that any ship hitting it would probably smash it to bits possibly without the crew even noticing.
As for fauna there’s the obvious big ones of whales, sharks and squid. There’s also the likes of barnacles to consider how do you renew antifouling paint on these things?

Roy Clark

This idea is not new. Pyron solar – – San Diego area offers something similar. The original idea was to use shallow ponds to provide cooling, avoid excessive costs for mounting/reduce the energy needed for tracking, and use a Fresnel/TIR lens to concentrate onto a triple junction cell. However, this is still a 2 axis tracker that has to maintain on-sun alignment.
This concept was not originally intended for open or deep water.
Various Patents have been filed, and Pyron has 20 kW prototypes under development.
As with any alternative energy concept – caveat emptor. Do you prefer the Amonix billboard size concentrator arrays? Its a very similar concentrator design, just a different package. It ultimately comes back to return on investment. Just don’t use my tax money to subsidize any of this.
By the way, where does the electrical power come from when the sun is not shining?
Fossil fuels work just fine. Plants love the CO2 and there is no such thing as CO2 induced global warming.

John Trigge

We should not denigrate this idea out of hand, even with Tata involved. We need to generate more power somehow if we are to raise the living standards of the 2050 projected 9.2 billion world population and there were probably many detractors of coal-fired power stations/nuclear/hydro/etc before they became the norm.
I notice from the Sunengy site that they have a map of areas of the world with lots of sunshine hours. What they haven’t done is reduce the areas to locations with sufficient water bodies to run their system, water being required for cooling, cleaning and support of the entire structure. Most of Australia is rated 3000+hours of sunshine per year but there is very little water in the outback (if we assume that the current floods are not the norm).
As well as the problems raised by others, will the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’ also raise its ugly head when the water they sit in increases in temp as it is being used to cool the collectors. Would someone with knowledge of the ideal environment for algae growth like to comment?
Perhaps they have thought of all of our reservations – one would hope so – but there is nothing on their site to indicate this.

I hit the buffers at the statement –
“…and the water also cools the cells which increases their efficiency.”
In the Gulf, the sea is used routinely as a heat exchanger for power stations, refineries and more recently for monumental air conditioning systems chilling air in high rise structures built to maximize heat gain in the interiors… Since the infamous Climate Models claim that CO2 is causing the ‘Greenhouse’ warming, and that increasing sea temperatures will accelerate this through the release of more CO2 and the increase in water vapour, this must surely negate, eventually, any offset of CO2 from generating power in this manner?
It is interesting to note that the heat exchangers in the Gulf have already caused ecological changes in the sea around them and this is spreading and increasing as the gulf appears to be warming. Sea temperatures there have, I am informed, increased overall by about 1°C in the last thirty years.
Having witnessed a typhoon topple a Container Loading Crane in a harbour supposedly outside the ‘normal’ Typhoon/Cyclone belt, I have serious doubts as to the chances of something like this proposed system surviving a serious storm. In the classic words of one of my school masters, “Interesting idea, but needs considerably more practical application and thought.”

“The lenses submerge in winds above 60km/hr”
What is the depth of a wave base? A depth equal to three times the wavelength of waves.
Just how deep can they submerge this to avoid the torsional affects?
If it is a shallow submersion, then the structure would have to be more (pardon me) “Robust” than the flimsy prototype. Much more.
Maybe it’s just me.


It’s fun to dump on somone’s project, but in reality this was never intended for the ocean, rather for (small?) lakes where hydropower already exists (presumably to connect straight up to the grid).
As such, conceptually I don’t have anything against putting solar panels on water.
However, being familiar with many things aquatic, I see a lot of weed, scale buildup, algae, corrosion and guano in the future of this. Fresh water means less salty than the sea. It doesn’t mean clean like comes out of your tap. As already said, even a mild breeze across the surface of a lake – which is the norm for all lakes – will have these things keening over in a very unprecise manner.
I noticed someone earlier posted a 20kw system under development. If that is true, well, 20kw. You’d be better off having your Prius hauled up a hill by a horse and letting it run downhill with wires trailing out the back. That’s pretty carbon neutral (methane, not so much) and you’d get a good 20kw out of the regen braking system.

Clearly a lot of readers missed the fact that these are to be put in man-made lakes behind hydroelectric dams and not on the ocean.
Waves, salt, whales and large ships should not be a problem. Wind should not be a problem as andthing dragging in the water (power line) would anchor it.
I see other problems, but would anyone be unhappy if it did work? Solar is very expensive, but I would love to have the chance to run large (many km2) arrays in space and send the energy down. Lots of problems with that too, but it would be cool.

Renewable energy is artwork or it is nothing!
Renewable energy is free … as is coal, oil nuclear … you just have to find a way to convert that free energy to usable power.
Renewable energy is the future … only because when we run out of all other better alternatives, we will be returning to the past.

You know, If I were a small critter looking for a warm spot, I’d likely sit on that solar cell when the sun was weak. Then, as the sun comes out, SPFAT! Then, I was another critter looking for BBQ critter to eat… SPFAATRR. Repeat until covered in carbonized critter bits…
I’m also picturing the result of gulls perching on the lenses doing what bird do when the do do what they do…

David A. Evans.

I think the scheme is supposed to pump water back to the reservoir for the hydro. Could be wrong of course.

jonny old boy

Even in the worse case scenario, if these are on inland water ways and they do get hit by an exhausting Typhoon, if the design is right then storm damage should be quick and easy to repair one would think. And such events relatively infrequent. Regards the salt deposits, the amount of salt from these fresh water areas would not be more than traditional solar arrays placed near a coast. No one suggested these arrays would be maintenance free so I can’t not see why there is so much automtic derision. It looks interesting, feasible and worthwhile. I think we are all tending to assume any “alternative” energy initiative is “crackpot” without too much thought these days.


Eric Anderson says:
“. . . an LSA installation could match the power output of a typical hydro dam using less than 10 percent of its surface area . . .”
That’s quite a claim — will be interesting to see if the figures bear out.
Benmore hydro dam in NZ generates 540 MW, area of reservoir 75 km2.
i.e. 7.2 watts per square metre of reservoir.
Solar could possibly beat that!

John Marshall

If these are to be installed on lakes then storms may not be a problem but the Norwegian experience must be borne in mind. the Norwegians built a power station floating off their coast. It was 600Mw so fairly large and power was derived from water temperature difference between deep water and surface water. The first winter storm and it disappeared never to be found. It remains on the sea bed somewhere.
Solar panels are not very efficient. Unless the latest very expensive technology is used which pushed efficiency to about 20% they are stuck with normal cells at 9% efficient. We get 1.3Kw per sq.m from the sun so you can work out what poor power you can get from solar panels. (Unless you are Spanish and have a diesel generator on site to give 24 hour per day solar power.).


April fools day isn’t till tomorrow….. Is it?

I can see many reasons why it could be a good idea. You do not care about stopping things growing in your hydro damns and reservoirs, because you will typically use that water for drinking anyway (at least here we do). Also you have already got a power grid to hydro, and almost certainly to reservoirs in some manner too. That already knocks out two of the main issues with solar – the loss of sunlight to the plants etc, and the need for power to be transmitted.
As for the rest, the problems are not insurmountable. I am sure lowering into the water, if far enough, would prevent damage. I agree that cleaning may be an issue, especially as whatever chemicals may be used will end up in drinking water. That model is obviously just a toy, not the real thing, however, or it would not last a week. I suspect it is just a prototype for demos.
All in all, not a bad idea. If it can be cleaned, it may even work. Whether it is cost effective, I suspect not, but I would not speculate much as I have no data to work with.

Tom Harley

John Kehr says:
March 31, 2011 at 12:56 am
Clearly a lot of readers missed the fact that these are to be put in man-made lakes behind hydroelectric dams and not on the ocean.
Having lived on the banks of Lake Kariba in the ’60s, in the Zambezi River valley, strong winds running along the 200+ mile valley produced waves every bit as equal in size to rough tropical ocean weather, except the waves were a lot closer together, really nasty if you were in a boat. Then there were thunderstorms, water spouts and many other hazards such as weed, wildlife and so on. This system wouldn’t stand a chance. Hydroelectricity from this dam provides most of Zambia and Zimbabwe, solar would be the equivalent of very expensive small change.

charles nelson

has this anything to do with 1st April?

Stephan says: “OT but I am very confused. This graph posted on the Blackboard purports to show global warming. What amazes me is that from 1980 to 1998 there seems to be significant cooling. I thought according to Hansen it was way above anomaly?
“There is warming from 1998 to 2007 but then it cools again please help LOL”
Stephan: The graph of UAH TLT anomalies you linked has a different base period than the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index (LOTI) data, which is why it is straddling zero. And while the GISS trend over that period is higher than the UAH TLT anomalies, the UAH TLT anomalies do have a significant postitive trend. My last post that included UAH TLT anomalies showed a positive trend of 1.4 deg C per Century:
The graph is Figure 5 from this post:

Alexander K

The idea fails for me if Tata is involved, apart from myriad impractical aspects. Why not build more hydro damns? I know the Green Mafia hate hydro dams and won’t allow the electricity generated by them to classified as ‘renewable energy’, which is wildly illogical.

Tata does seem to have an awful lot of fingers in the AGW pie, doesn’t it…


“Modelling by Sunengy shows, for example, that a 240 MW LSA system could increase annual energy generation at the Portuguese hydro plant, Alqueva, by 230%.”
A 1 GW flashlight battery could essentially power an electrical vehicle, (and at the same time providing enough “juice”, hehe so to say, to power the actual 3W Power LED in the flashlight,) for hundreds and hundreds of miles:es. 0_O


Just wait until the playgrounds of the fishermen, waterskiers and other recreational water users are taken away.


Or they could use conventional energy that does not take up millions of lots of land and apparently sea area to fix a problem that does not exist.
Botch or bodge would probably fit into this idea. Fixes for global warming comes under creating a problem that does not exist then pretending to fix it with something that does not work. And promoting the crap out of it to convince people the lie is true. In a sane world such behavior would be prosecuted.


B Tisdale point taken and you are correct. Still, there are now heaps of base periods hanging around, and they seem to be changed frequently, what a joke. The only base period we can trust seems to be the Armagh, Eire, one which shows no warming.