While the sight of rooftop solar panels and expansive solar farms has become increasingly common, advancements in research and development in the U.S. have allowed for increased clean energy production here in New Jersey by utilizing available bodies of water, such as reservoirs.
American Water, headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, operates in support of community and industrial water and wastewater needs across the U.S. and serves customers locally through its New Jersey American Water subsidiary.
New Jersey American Water provides high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to 2.8 million people across the state.
Floating solar arrays, or floating photovoltaics, are solar panels mounted on buoyant structures in calm waters. While primarily installed to generate clean energy and reduce costs, these arrays have been found to have a secondary benefit of reducing evaporative effects on drinking water sources.
Floating solar arrays can also limit the growth of harmful algae, which protects drinking water at the source. The cooling effect that water has on these floating panels aids them in operating more efficiently than those affixed to the ground.
New Jersey American Water, with limited ground space on its operational sites for land-based solar panel installation, began installation of its first floating solar array in 2012. This small, 112-kilowatt (kW) proof of concept on Canoe Brook Reservoir offered promising results for larger future installations.
After five years of technological improvements, the prospect of a larger floating array became operationally and financially feasible. New Jersey American Water moved forward with an RFP to install a larger, 8.91 MW floating solar installation on the same Canoe Brook reservoir.
“Floating solar technology creates new opportunities for bodies of water to be a home for large-scale renewable energy generation and bring the benefits of clean energy to even more customers,” said Steve Westhoven, president and CEO of New Jersey Resources. “As a leader in New Jersey’s solar marketplace, we look forward to working with New Jersey American Water to support their power needs and advance the state’s clean energy and climate goals.”
The clean power generated by the Canoe Brook reservoir solar array will provide approximately 95% of the adjacent water treatment plant’s annual power needs through a power purchase agreement with NJR Clean Energy Ventures (CEV). The Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant produces 14 million gallons of drinking water per day for approximately 84,000 customers.
In late 2021 and early 2022, construction began on an array that included 16,510 solar panels mounted on an innovative floating racking system. Completed in January 2023, it is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.
Part of American Water’s commitment to environmental justice is effective and efficient use of natural resources, including energy. Installation of floating solar arrays contributes to company goals of reducing absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2025 from a 2007 baseline. American Water has several goals to reduce emissions, which include:
American Water believes that everyone should have access to safe, clean, reliable, and affordable drinking water and wastewater services, and is proud to strengthen the communities it’s privileged to serve from our home here in New Jersey and across the U.S.
For more information about sustainability at American Water, please visit its ESG website.
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