Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Energy production and water savings from floating solar photovoltaics on global reservoirs


Growing global energy use and the adoption of sustainability goals to limit carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning are increasing the demand for clean energy, including solar. Floating photovoltaic (FPV) systems on reservoirs are advantageous over traditional ground-mounted solar systems in terms of land conservation, efficiency improvement and water loss reduction. Here, based on multiple reservoir databases and a realistic climate-driven photovoltaic system simulation, we estimate the practical potential electricity generation for FPV systems with a 30% coverage on 114,555 global reservoirs is 9,434 ± 29 TWh yr−1. Considering the proximity of most reservoirs to population centres and the potential to develop dedicated local power systems, we find that 6,256 communities and/or cities in 124 countries, including 154 metropolises, could be self-sufficient with local FPV plants. Also beneficial to FPV worldwide is that the reduced annual evaporation could conserve 106 ± 1 km3 of water. Our analysis points to the huge potential of FPV systems on reservoirs, but additional studies are needed to assess the potential long-term consequences of large systems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Global potential for annual FPV generation.
Fig. 2: Comparison of FPV generation potential and electricity demand in cities with 30% reservoir coverage (not exceeding 30 km2).
Fig. 3: Estimated global water savings from FPV development with 30% reservoir coverage (not exceeding 30 km2).

Data availability

The solar radiation data are available at; the temperature and wind speed data are available at!/dataset/reanalysis-era5-land?tab=overview; the GRanD database is available at; the GeoDAR data are available at; the latest global reservoir database from OSM can be extracted from; the electricity demand data for countries are available at; the GADM data are available at; the global population distribution data from LandScan are available at; the gridded global datasets for GDP are available at; and the CRU data are available at The data that support the findings of this study are also available from the corresponding author upon request.

Code availability

The scripts used to generate all the results are written in MATLAB (R2022a). All data and code are available at


  1. Mora, C. et al. Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. Nat. Clim. Change 8, 1062–1071 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Sahu, A., Yadav, N. & Sudhakar, K. Floating photovoltaic power plant: a review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 66, 815–824 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Hernandez, R. R. et al. Environmental impacts of utility-scale solar energy. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 29, 766–779 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. van de Ven, D.-J. et al. The potential land requirements and related land use change emissions of solar energy. Sci. Rep. 11, 2907 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Rauf, H., Gull, M. S. & Arshad, N. Integrating floating solar PV with hydroelectric power plant: analysis of Ghazi Barotha reservoir in Pakistan. Energy Procedia 158, 816–821 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Solomin, E., Sirotkin, E., Cuce, E., Selvanathan, S. P. & Kumarasamy, S. Hybrid floating solar plant designs: a review. Energies 14, 2751 (2021).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Bontempo Scavo, F., Tina, G. M., Gagliano, A. & Nižetić, S. An assessment study of evaporation rate models on a water basin with floating photovoltaic plants. Int. J. Energy Res. 45, 167–188 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Handbook for Practitioners (World Bank Group, ESMAP, SERIS, 2019).

  9. Global Floating Solar Panels Industry (ReportLinker, 2022).

  10. Almeida, R. M. et al. Floating solar power could help fight climate change—let’s get it right. Nature 606, 246–249 (2022).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Gonzalez Sanchez, R., Kougias, I., Moner-Girona, M., Fahl, F. & Jäger-Waldau, A. Assessment of floating solar photovoltaics potential in existing hydropower reservoirs in Africa. Renew. Energy 169, 687–699 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Mahmood, S., Deilami, S. & Taghizadeh, S. Floating solar PV and hydropower in Australia: feasibility, future investigations and challenges. In 2021 31st Australasian Universities Power Engineering Conference (AUPEC) (eds. Rajakaruna, S., Siada, A. A., et al.) 1–5 (IEEE, 2021).

  13. Rahman, M. W., Mahmud, M. S., Ahmed, R., Rahman, M. S. & Arif, M. Z. Solar lanes and floating solar PV: new possibilities for source of energy generation in Bangladesh. In 2017 Innovations in Power and Advanced Computing Technologies (i-PACT) 1–6 (IEEE, 2017).

  14. Padilha Campos Lopes, M., de Andrade Neto, S., Alves Castelo Branco, D., Vasconcelos de Freitas, M. A. & da Silva Fidelis, N. Water–energy nexus: floating photovoltaic systems promoting water security and energy generation in the semiarid region of Brazil. J. Clean. Prod. 273, 122010 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fereshtehpour, M., Javidi Sabbaghian, R., Farrokhi, A., Jovein, E. B. & Ebrahimi Sarindizaj, E. Evaluation of factors governing the use of floating solar system: a study on Iran’s important water infrastructures. Renew. Energy 171, 1171–1187 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Nagananthini, R. & Nagavinothini, R. Investigation on floating photovoltaic covering system in rural Indian reservoir to minimize evaporation loss. Int. J. Sustain. Energy 40, 781–805 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Sukarso, A. P. & Kim, K. N. Cooling effect on the floating solar PV: performance and economic analysis on the case of West Java province in Indonesia. Energies 13, 2126 (2020).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Jamalludin, M. A. S. et al. Potential of floating solar technology in Malaysia. Int. J. Power Electron. Drive Syst. 10, 1638–1644 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dellosa, J. & Palconit, E. V. Resource assessment of a floating solar photovoltaic (FSPV) system with artificial intelligence applications in Lake Mainit, Philippines. Eng. Technol. Appl. Sci. Res. 12, 8410–8415 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sapthanakorn, P. & Salakij, S. Evaluating the potential of using floating solar photovoltaic on 12 reservoirs of Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand hydropower plants. In 2021 International Conference on Smart City and Green Energy (ICSCGE) 41–45 (IEEE, 2021).

  21. Sutton, M. The UK’s Floating Photovoltaic (FPV) Potential (Pagerpower, 2020);

  22. Spencer, R. S., Macknick, J., Aznar, A., Warren, A. & Reese, M. O. Floating photovoltaic systems: assessing the technical potential of photovoltaic systems on man-made water bodies in the continental United States. Environ. Sci. Technol. 53, 1680–1689 (2019).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Lee, N. et al. Hybrid floating solar photovoltaics–hydropower systems: benefits and global assessment of technical potential. Renew. Energy 162, 1415–1427 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. McKuin, B. et al. Energy and water co-benefits from covering canals with solar panels. Nat. Sustain. 4, 609–617 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Liber, W. et al. Statewide Potential Study for the Implementation of Floating Solar Photovoltaic Arrays (Colorado Energy Office, 2020).

  26. Andrews, R. W., Stein, J. S., Hansen, C. & Riley, D. Introduction to the open source PV LIB for python photovoltaic system modelling package. In 2014 IEEE 40th Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC) 0170–0174 (IEEE, 2014).

  27. Ranjbaran, P., Yousefi, H., Gharehpetian, G. B. & Astaraei, F. R. A review on floating photovoltaic (FPV) power generation units. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 110, 332–347 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Liu, B. et al. Optimal power peak shaving using hydropower to complement wind and solar power uncertainty. Energy Convers. Manag. 209, 112628 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Thorpe, D. How Cities Can Generate Their Own Clean Energy and Create Jobs and Income (Smartcities Dive, 2017);

  30. Mothilal Bhagavathy, S. & Pillai, G. PV microgrid design for rural electrification. Designs 2, 33 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Das, K. & Jain, P. Floatovoltaic microgrids: new possibilities of decentralizing water–energy sector in India. Eng. Technol. 8, 9 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  32. Gleick, P. H. Water use. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 28, 275–314 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Nkiaka, E., Okpara, U. T. & Okumah, M. Food–energy–water security in sub-Saharan Africa: quantitative and spatial assessments using an indicator-based approach. Environ. Dev. 40, 100655 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. International Energy Outlook (US Energy Information Administration, 2021).

  35. Hydropower (International Energy Agency, 2021).

  36. Net Zero by 2050 (International Energy Agency, 2021).

  37. Global Energy Transformation: The REmap Transition Pathway (International Renewable Energy Agency, 2019).

  38. Gibson, L., Wilman, E. N. & Laurance, W. F. How green is ‘green’ energy? Trends Ecol. Evol. 32, 922–935 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Gadzanku, S., Lee, N. & Dyreson, A. Enabling Floating Solar Photovoltaic (FPV) Deployment: Exploring the Operational Benefits of Floating Solar–Hydropower Hybrids (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2022).

  40. Zhou, Y. et al. An advanced complementary scheme of floating photovoltaic and hydropower generation flourishing water–food–energy nexus synergies. Appl. Energy 275, 115389 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Hancook, E. New Floating Solar Study Demonstrates Water Quality Improvements (PV-Tech, 2021);

  42. Château, P.-A. et al. Mathematical modeling suggests high potential for the deployment of floating photovoltaic on fish ponds. Sci. Total Environ. 687, 654–666 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Pimentel Da Silva, G. D. & Branco, D. A. C. Is floating photovoltaic better than conventional photovoltaic? Assessing environmental impacts. Impact Assess. Proj. Apprais. 36, 390–400 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Floating Solar PV on Dam Reservoirs: The Opportunities and the Challenges (Solar-Hydro, 2021).

  45. Guidelines of the Ministry of Water Resources on Strengthening Shoreline Space Control of River and Lake Waters (in Chinese) (Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China, 2022);

  46. Feron, S., Cordero, R. R., Damiani, A. & Jackson, R. B. Climate change extremes and photovoltaic power output. Nat. Sustain. 4, 270–276 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Dutta, R., Chanda, K. & Maity, R. Future of solar energy potential in a changing climate across the world: a CMIP6 multi-model ensemble analysis. Renew. Energy 188, 819–829 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Hou, X., Wild, M., Folini, D., Kazadzis, S. & Wohland, J. Climate change impacts on solar power generation and its spatial variability in Europe based on CMIP6. Earth Syst. Dyn. 12, 1099–1113 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Lehner, B. et al. High-resolution mapping of the world’s reservoirs and dams for sustainable river-flow management. Front. Ecol. Environ. 9, 494–502 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Wang, J. et al. GeoDAR: georeferenced global dam and reservoir dataset for bridging attributes and geolocations. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 14, 1869–1899 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. OpenStreetMap (OpenStreetMap, 2021);

  52. CERES and GEO-Enhanced TOA, Within-Atmosphere and Surface Fluxes, Clouds and Aerosols 1-Hourly Terra-Aqua Edition4A (NASA Langley Atmospheric Science Data Center DAAC, 2017);

  53. Muñoz Sabater, J. ERA5-Land Hourly Data from 1981 to Present (Copernicus Climate Change Service Climate Data Store, 2019).

  54. Tina, G. M., Bontempo Scavo, F., Merlo, L. & Bizzarri, F. Comparative analysis of monofacial and bifacial photovoltaic modules for floating power plants. Appl. Energy 281, 116084 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Whittaker, T., Folley, M. & Hancock, J. in Floating PV Plants (eds. Rosa-Clot, M. and Tina, G. M.) 47–66 (Elsevier, 2020).

  56. Micheli, L. Energy and economic assessment of floating photovoltaics in Spanish reservoirs: cost competitiveness and the role of temperature. Sol. Energy 227, 625–634 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Mathijssen, D. et al. Potential impact of floating solar panels on water quality in reservoirs; pathogens and leaching. Water Pract. Technol. 15, 807–811 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Kim, K. Real options analysis for the investment of floating photovoltaic project in Saemangeum. Korean J. Constr. Eng. Manag. 22, 90–97 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  59. Global Energy Review 2021 (International Energy Agency, 2021).

  60. Shiu, A. & Lam, P.-L. Electricity consumption and economic growth in China. Energy Policy 8, 47–54 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. GADM Database of Global Administrative Areas, Version 2.0 (Global Collaboration Engine, 2012);

  62. LandScan Global 2019 (Oak Ridge National Laboraotry, 2020);

  63. Kummu, M., Taka, M. & Guillaume, J. H. A. Data from: Gridded global datasets for gross domestic product and human development index over 1990–2015. Dryad (2020).

  64. Harris, I., Osborn, T. J., Jones, P. & Lister, D. Version 4 of the CRU TS monthly high-resolution gridded multivariate climate dataset. Sci. Data 7, 109 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Yang, Y., Roderick, M. L., Zhang, S., McVicar, T. R. & Donohue, R. J. Hydrologic implications of vegetation response to elevated CO2 in climate projections. Nat. Clim. Change 9, 44–48 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Shuttleworth, W. J. Handbook of Hydrology (ed. Maidment, D. R.) Ch. 4 (McGraw-Hill Education, 1993).

  67. Allen, R. G., Pereira, L. S., Raes, D. & Smith, M. Crop Evapotranspiration: Guidelines for Computing Crop Water Requirements FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 56 (FAO, 1998).

  68. Gadzanku, S., Mirletz, H., Lee, N., Daw, J. & Warren, A. Benefits and critical knowledge gaps in determining the role of floating photovoltaics in the energy–water–food nexus. Sustainability 13, 4317 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Kumar, M. & Kumar, A. Performance assessment of different photovoltaic technologies for canal-top and reservoir applications in subtropical humid climate. IEEE J. Photovolt. 9, 722–732 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Kandananond, K. Forecasting electricity demand in Thailand with an artificial neural network approach. Energies 4, 1246–1257 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants no. 42071022 and no. 72173058), the start-up fund provided by Southern University of Science and Technology (no. 29/Y01296122), and the SUSTech Energy Institute for Carbon Neutrality. We are grateful to Z. Zhang for the insightful comments and valuable discussions on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualization, funding acquisition, project administration and supervision was carried out by Z.Z. Methodology was carried out by Y.J., Z.Z., S.H. and R.X. Investigation was carried out by Y.J. and S.H. Visualization was carried out by Y.J. Y.J. and A.D.Z. wrote the original draft. All authors contributed to interpreting results, and writing and editing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhenzhong Zeng.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Sustainability thanks Giuseppe Tina, Fi-John Chang, Manish Kumar and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–9 and Supplementary Tables 1 and 2.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Data 1

Details of FPV potential in cities.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jin, Y., Hu, S., Ziegler, A.D. et al. Energy production and water savings from floating solar photovoltaics on global reservoirs. Nat Sustain (2023).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing