It is a major milestone in Europe to install a floating solar farm on a hydroelectric dam located on the Alto Rabagão River in Montalegre, Portugal. Mixing hydroelectricity and solar energy could seem like an intriguing concept, but there are huge benefits of this hybrid system.
The French company Ciel & Terre (C&T) International – the pioneer of the FPV (floating photovoltaic) market through its floating solution Hydrelio® – believes in the many benefits of solar on dam reservoirs considering the tremendous existing potential worldwide. As a real alternative to traditional PV, FPV’s main concept is to generate energy on an unused and artificial body of water. So, by installing them on dams, it generates even more significant energy on an existing surface and is much more profitable. The hybridization allows the panels to produce solar energy during the day while saving hydro energy to complete during intermittent times. Thus, optimizing the water’s need valuation during the evening and peak demand times. Dam reservoirs are the targeted application for C&T considering the energetic and economic potential. It is estimated that in covering only 10% of the 50 largest dams in the world, C&T can produce 400 GW of solar electricity.
Ciel & Terre International is associated with the Portuguese company D2M-Energytransit, a specialist in the energy sector, distributing Hydrelio® in Portugal. Market studies proved Portugal was perfectly suitable for FPV technology. With this evidence, the hybridization benefits sparked the attention of the Portuguese leader within the electricity sector EDP (Energias de Portugal) Group, who manages a large number of hydroelectric facilities. The EDP Group’s acknowledgement on the advantages of FPV for its operation and the interest on making a pilot to prove it, led to the tender and ultimately to the connection with C&T. Chosen as EPC (Engineering – Procurement – Construction) contractor and the FPV expert, C&T oversaw all project development to ensure proper design and installation of the floating island along with the electrical and anchoring systems. D2M-Energytransit accompanied C&T throughout the entire process of EDP’s pioneer project on the Alto Rabagão. Assumedly this location was chosen by EDP Group amongst the several dams possible, for its extreme difficulty level. The most challenging issues were water level variation and the depth. Nonetheless it was undertaken with success by C&T and highlighted their expertise in mooring the floating power plant at more than 60 meters in depth, while dealing with a water level variation of 30 meters. In early 2017, C&T has delivered more than 60 floating PV installations in 16 countries, for a portfolio of over 140 MWp, making up the majority of the global FPV market.
The installed 840 floating PV panels have a total peak capacity of 220 kilowatts and is expected to generate 332 megawatts per hour in its first year – equivalent to the annual consumption of around 100 homes. The FPV power plant has been connected to the grid since November, 30th 2016, where an inauguration ceremony is planned to take place in the short term to officially announce the launch of this innovative project.
Ciel & Terre International is proud to equip the strategic Portuguese market with its Hydrelio® solution on the first floating PV system in the country. With strong policy in favor of renewables and sunshine duration of 2,500 hours per year, Portugal has high potential opportunities for FPV solutions thanks to the implantation of existing waterbodies that have a total hydropower capacity to 6 GWp. The partnership between all three entities (EDP Group, D2M-Energytransit and Ciel & Terre International) plays an important role in the worldwide energy transition process, as this project proves to be a compelling initiative to combine different kinds of energy production to generate more power in the same place without intrusion on valuable lands for other uses such as agriculture.