Installing solar panels on the surface of reservoirs is an up-and-coming trend. The arrays of solar panels produce renewable energy while at the same time shielding significant expanses of water from the sun’s heat, thereby reducing evaporation. The panels also help to inhibit the growth of algae.
Two recent floating solar installations are demonstrating the synergy between solar power and hydroelectric power.
The Lazer floating solar plant in France comprises over 50,000 solar panels and is capable of producing 30 MW of power. The reservoir serves a 16.5 MW hydropower plant. During the summer, the water from Lazer Reservoir is used primarily for crop irrigation and the solar plant supplements power generation as the reservoir water level experiences variations. This is the first facility of its kind to be installed in France. The company that built it – the EDF Group – had already built four floating solar power plants in Israel and the US.
In Colombia, the Aquasol solar project is installed at the 340 MW Urrá hydropower plant. Its 2,800 solar panels produce enough power to offset the amount of energy it takes to operate the dam. The floating solar system is designed to withstand water-level fluctuations of up to 120 feet.
Floating solar systems can help keep power flowing when low water levels or other adverse conditions reduce hydroelectric output. About 60% of the world’s renewable energy comes from hydropower. Given this fact, there are countless opportunities to deploy floating solar that maximizes zero-emission energy generation as well as diversifying clean energy sources.
Photo, posted October 25, 2010, courtesy of Martin Abegglen via Flickr.