Study finds potential for colocating floating solar with hydropower in Africa

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
A 220kWp floating solar project from EDP at the Alto Rabagão Dam in the north of Portugal. Image: EDP.

Hydropower plants across Africa could double their capacity if just 1% of their reservoirs are used to install floating solar projects, new research suggests.

The large-scale roll-out of floating solar at hydropower reservoirs in the continent could reduce water evaporation, help to satisfy future energy needs and increase resilience to climate change without redesigning existing infrastructure, according to the study. 

Entitled ‘Assessment of floating solar photovoltaics potential in existing hydropower reservoirs in Africa’, the research says floating photovoltaic (FPV) can complement hydropower production during increasingly frequent dry periods in Africa, while hydropower provides a more flexible operation to intermittent PV output.

The researchers used a combination of satellite images and reservoir data to analyse floating solar’s potential at 146 of Africa's largest operational hydropower plants as of 2016.

Despite its status as the continent with the most abundant solar resources, Africa is said to have an installed PV capacity of just 5GW, less than 1% of the global total. In terms of FPV developments, South Africa’s first such project was completed in 2019 and had a capacity of 60kW, while German company Droege Energy revealed plans the same year for a 20MW floating solar plant in Malawi. 

While land availability for renewables deployment is not a major challenge in Africa, the report says FPV systems have additional advantages that are pertinent to Africa: increased efficiency thanks to the cooling effect of water, evaporation reduction, improvement of water quality by preventing algae growth and a lower impact of dust.

The report notes that FPV projects typically involve higher costs, in part due to operation and maintenance factors, the additional expertise required and increased soft costs, such as licensing and financing. However, colocation of floating solar with hydro plants means that transmission infrastructure is in place, removing some construction costs related to connecting to the grid.

A report published last year by Fitch Solutions found that falling costs, a range of successful pilot projects and a better understanding of the benefits are leading to a growing interest in FPV globally. The consultancy forecasts nearly 10GW of floating solar capacity will be installed in the next five years, with Asia dominating the technology’s project pipeline.

Read Next

October 8, 2021
Quality assurance company DNV has awarded Sungrow FPV a statement of conformity for its anchoring and mooring design methodology for floating solar systems.
October 6, 2021
Hello and welcome to PV Tech’s coverage of the opening day of Intersolar Europe 2021. The return of a live exhibition for Europe’s solar industry was warmly welcomed, with thousands flocking to the Messe München for the exhibition’s opening day.
September 28, 2021
Renewables developer and asset manager RES has secured planning permission for a 65.5MW floating solar project that will be installed at a former quarry in northeastern France.
PV Tech Premium
September 28, 2021
Toni Weigl, head of product management for floating PV at BayWa r.e., explores the current trends for designing and developing floating solar projects and poses the question, where next for floating PV?
September 17, 2021
A 58.5MW floating PV plant in Thailand, said to be the largest install of its kind in the country, has been connected to the grid, according to inverter and floating solutions supplier Sungrow.
PV Tech Premium
September 10, 2021
With inaccurate irradiation data potentially impacting profitability estimates of PV projects in Africa, calls have been made for solar players to invest in more accurate measurement tools and work together to support the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector’s growth.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021