Clean Power

Published on April 6th, 2015 | by Anand Upadhyay


Brazil Announces Huge 350 MW Floating Solar Power Plant

April 6th, 2015 by  

Brazil’s energy ministry has ranked the country’s various sources of energy as per their abundance, cheapness, renewability, and availability of the necessary technology. Among the available options, hydropower comes top, followed by wind power and biomass (mostly bagasse).

However the country has been reeling under its worst drought in 80 years. The Cantareira reservoir system, which serves more than nine million people in the state, is only 5% full. At the Alto Tietê reservoir network, which supplies three million people in greater Sao Paulo (South America’s largest city), water levels are below 15%.floating solar japan kyocera

A number of cities have taken to water rationing. With the reservoir levels falling too low to generate electricity, energy crises could be next in line due to the country’s dependence on hydropower on which it relies for up to 80% of its energy.

For sometime now, Brazil has been warming up to solar energy. Last year, Brazil’s National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), concluded its first exclusive solar power auction, providing 20-year PPAs to companies that will invest over $1.66 billion in 1,048 MW of solar power spread over 31 solar parks. Power production is expected to start by 2017. The country has now decided to further push solar energy.

According to reports, Brazil’s energy minister Eduardo Braga recently announced his government’s intentions to begin a series of pilot tests of floating solar power plants on hydroelectric dam reservoirs within a period of four months.

A 350 MW pilot project is being planned at the Balbina hydroelectric plant in the Amazon. The electricity thus generated is expected to cost between approximately $69 and $77 per MWh.

Ironically, the host for the project, the 250 MW Balbina hydroelectric plant, has long been a controversial project. In addition to the loss of habitat that occurred with its construction, it is claimed that methane released from the dam reservoir spread over 2,360 square kilometres, causing the facility to emit more greenhouse gases than most coal plants.

Floating PV systems have been gaining a lot of traction across several solar markets, those in the foray include Australia, India, JapanKorea, and the US.

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About the Author

is an Associate Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi) - an independent, not-for-profit research institute focused on energy, environment, and sustainable development. Anand follows the Indian solar market at @indiasolarpost. He also writes at SolarMarket.IN. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

  • Hans Judek

    I am living and working Japan and Asia and am the owner of the discussion group “Floating Solar” on LinkedIn. Please consider joining the discussion there.

    Floating solar will not be able to reduce methane evaporation from rotting plants beyond the fact that it helps keeping the water temperature lower.

    It definitely reduces algae growth and the evaporation of water. Depending on many factors, the evaporation can be as much as 3m per annum in parts of India.

    Considering the fact that even mid-term floating solar will become less expensive than land based installations (no civil engineering work, less costs for installation, soft costs down), it makes very good sense to consider floating solar on dams. A major advantage being that the electric infra structure and grid connection is already in place.

    I can foresee that this market will explode in the next few years.

  • exdent11

    Question! In arid parts of the world, would coverage of a water storage reservoir with floating Pvs significantly reduce evaporation ? I’m thinking California situation.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Floaters would cut evaporation to some extent. Perhaps not a lot.

      The panels would intercept sunlight that would otherwise strike the water.

    • Minwoo Kim

      California is water shortage. So Floating Solar Plant’s wonderful idea for California.

  • 김민우

    Floating Solar Power Plant is wonderful Idea! And it’s very important to maintain effectively same direction and position on the water for floating solar plants. Because directional change of solar panels reduces electricity production. So Floating solar plants also need the directional control mooring systems for their parked positions. Azimuth and position change of floating solar plants caused by wind, waves and external forces. Restoring Force Strengthened Mooring System for floating solar plants has been created in South Korea. The Mooring System generates Restoring Force immediately when Floating solar plants are being rotated or moved on the water. Recently, this Restoring Force Strengthened Mooring Systems have been used in South Korea. You can see the Restoring Force Strengthened Mooring System in Ochang Dam, South Korea. I N I WORLD

  • spec9

    Floating power plants are a GREAT two-fer. They generate clean electricity AND they reduce evaporation of the valuable fresh water.

    And as JamesWimberly points out, it is actually a three-fer since Algae growth is slowed thus also reducing methane emissions.

    • Larmion

      It’s a three-fer in a parallel universe where algae have a biosynthetic pathway that allows them to form methane. In this universe, methane is produced by sediment-dwelling Archaea that don’t care much for light or dark.

    • Matt

      For this case it is a one-fer. They are covering such a small portion or the water surface that the impact will be in the noise. As for reduced methane, it is coming from all the flooded plants that are decomposing. And again the small area covered means impact is again noise, no matter what is breaking them down. But the power is good, yes.

      • jeffhre

        Interesting that a mere pilot plant has more nameplate capacity than the underlying hydroelectric plant. To get a 2-fer they would have to cover most of the lake with PV panels, seal it and extract the resulting methane – since the misplaced hydro plant is yet to account for a 1-fer!

  • Ronald Brakels

    Well, I guess they won’t need to build a fence around it.

  • JamesWimberley

    The promoters claim that the floating panels will cut the methane, by shading the algae in the water.

    The Balbina dam has a tiny nominal output (250MW) in relation to the vast size of the reservoir – the central Amazon basin is nearly dead flat, and it’s hard to get a decent head of water. The ultimate culprit is Brazil’s insistence on keeping a metropolis (Manaus) going in an absurd location, thousands of miles from anywhere in a maximally humid climate with no reliable land access. It only survives because of large tax breaks – DVD players and the like are assembled there from flown-in parts and the flown out again to Rio and São Paulo. Manaus got a new stadium for the World Cup. The regular teams there play in the Amazonian League, which is at the level you’d expect.

    • Yes. There have been claims of reduction in methane emissions on account of reduced algal growth, but if one really looks at the size of the reservoir – they sound superfluous.

      As per my back of the envelope calculations, even if one were to consider that the floating PV system would occupy 1.5 times the surface as the ground mounted systems occupy, the total surface covered would hardly amount to 1% of the reservoirs area.

      One definite advantage however is that if you consider the hydro power plant, dam reservoir and the proposed solar plant in coherence – it appears to be one big energy storage system!!! The solar plant can operate in the day, and water can be regulated, to be saved for later. Ofcourse, not all of the flowing water can be stopped, but still.

      • Larmion

        Claims that are wrong, by the way, even if the area of the lake covered was actually meaningful. Algae don’t produce methane, that’s a metabolic pathway unique to Archaea living in the sediment at the bottom of the lake.

        There is a chance that shading will reduce algae growth and that fewer algae will mean less food for said Archaea. That theory assumes that:

        a) The entire lake is pretty much anaerobic, in which case the reservoir has been terribly mismanaged. Normally, you’d expect most organic matter to be dealt with aerobically. Are they dumping an entire city’s sewage in that lake?

        b) Most organic carbon comes from algae, and thus from within the lake. In most reservoirs, external carbon (think leaves or animal faeces falling into the lake) account for the majority of the carbon inputs.

        • Jenny Sommer

          What they would actually need are .
          A huge waterski lift to get air into the water.
          PV powered algea harvester boats and a biogas plant.

          • Larmion

            Aeration of water has an incredibly high electricity use. It’s one of the biggest costs in a water treatment plant. Fully aerating the lake will use a very significant proportion of the dam’s output.

            You could harvest the algae, then what? Use them as fertilizer or soil conditioner might work financially, turning them into energy is too costly at current prices.

    • spec9

      Methane reduction might be a nice additional perk. But I think the main supplementary advantage beyond the electricity generation is the reduced evaporation of the valuable water.

    • Gerson Menezes

      In fact, if brazilians did not occupied this lands others would have occupied. The great problem of greenhouse emissions in hydroeletric plants are due the green matter in decomposition at the bottom of the lake during some time. However, I put in doubt the higher emission of greenhouse gases in relation to a combustion based plant.

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