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Europe’s biggest ever floating solar panel array is being installed on London’s Queen Elizabeth II reservoir as part of Thames Water’s bid to self-generate a third of its own energy by 2020. Approximately 23,000 solar photovoltaic panels will be floated on the reservoir near Walton-on-Thames. It will have a total installed peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts and is expected to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in its first year — equivalent to the annual consumption of around 1,800 homes. The floating pontoon will cover around a tenth of the reservoir.

In the United States, work began in March 2016 on one of the largest floating solar arrays in the country. The $12 million project in the Borough of Sayreville, N.J, is expected to produce more than 4 million kWh of renewable energy annually for the Bordentown Avenue Water Treatment Plant. Following completion of design, construction was expected to begin in mid-2016 and be completed before the end of the year.

Thames Water is striving to become more efficient to reduce its reliance on the grid. It generated a total of 12.5 percent of its electricity requirements from renewable sources in 2014/2015, which is a 4 percent increase from the year before. In 2015, Thames Water pledged to support the objectives of the Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius and this project will contribute to achieving this goal. Thames Water currently has solar panels on 41 of its sites.

The goal of the U.S. project is to produce all of the energy needed to operate the Bordentown Avenue Water Treatment Plant on an annual basis, significantly reducing energy costs and creating a “net zero” facility that does not rely on public utilities. As the solar array becomes operational, the treatment plant’s greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint will be greatly reduced, equivalent to the energy used by more than 375 homes in a year.

Partner firms that will execute the project’s design and implementation include Power Grid Capital, LLC (project developer); Monticello Energy Finance, LLC (project financing); and RETTEW (engineer and designer). Power Grid Capital, LLC specializes in construction of renewable energy projects, including solar arrays and the conversion of biogas from wastewater treatment facilities to vehicle fuel.

“We specifically look for renewable energy projects like this,” said Power Grid owner Alan Litt. “It benefits the community far into the future, and also adds significant training resources for community members.”

Middlesex Regional Educational Service Commission and Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools will work with project managers to engage their students in learning important technical skills, gaining both training and financial opportunity.

“We’re not just corporations completing a technical job,” said Jason Wert, senior technical engineer with RETTEW. “We’re in this to help local communities with energy sustainability and make a difference in the lives of families, whether that’s through more efficient energy use or training that will benefit their children years into the future.”

Information provided by Thames Water (thameswater.co.uk) and RETTEW (rettew.com).

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