Clean Power 640px-Balbina_Dam-1

Published on March 14th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor

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Brazil Pairs Hydro & Floating Solar

March 14th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon

Floating Solar PV Project Installed On Hydroelectric Project In Brazil

A floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system has been installed on the reservoir waters of a hydroelectric project in Brazil — as a means of diversifying the project’s generation capabilities, thereby improving resilience against drought — according to the country’s energy agency EPE.

As the country is currently facing severe drought in some regions, the project is seemingly an attempt to deal with the repercussions of that situation.

The new floating solar PV installation is located at the Balbina hydroelectric power plant in the Amazon. The project marks the first ever utilization of floating solar PV at a hydroelectric facility according to the Brazilian EPE. (I haven’t been able to verify this.)

While the first phase, which was just completed, totals just one megawatt (MW) in nameplate generation capacity, plans are in the works to expand the project to a 5 MW generation capacity in total.

Plans are also in the works to develop a similar project at the Sobradinho hydroelectric facility in Bahia, Brazil.

Key to the economic value of such projects, is the fact that when in drought, the substation and transmission capacities of the hydroelectric facilities are underutilized — using solar PV systems to generate electricity then allows the use of idle capacity, covering tariff costs.

A total of 10 MW of such projects is slated for completion by the beginning of 2019.

Note that Brazil has plans for 350 MW of floating solar power plants.

Image of Balbina Dam by Seabirds (some rights reserved)


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  • Rikaishi Rikashi

    I would think that this makes sense even when not in drought. Running the hydro at night when the panels are dormant lets you make 24-hour use of the infrastructure while preserving the dam’s water levels.

  • Rikaishi Rikashi

    I would think that this makes sense even when not in drought. Running the hydro at night when the panels are dormant lets you make 24-hour use of the infrastructure while preserving the dam’s water levels.

  • Victor Provenzano

    Splendid, except for the fact that studies have shown that the net life cycle carbon emissions of tropical hydro per kWh can be up to 2.2 times as high as those of coal. Other than that it is an incomparable project and we are all in their debt. ;0

  • thinkmorebelieveless

    This seems like a good idea to me. Wouldn’t the solar panels cut down on the evaporation losses of the impoundment and shade it somewhat like overhanging trees would do? Would the floating panels be cooled somewhat from the water and therefore improve the panel efficiency ?

  • JamesWimberley

    Balbina was a truly awful hydro project – the reservoir is bigger than Itaipu’s, with 2% of the generating capacity.

  • DecksUpMySleeve

    Yeah, if you’re already damaging the local ecosystem, mine as well go all in..

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