Utility EDP has announced that it has secured approval from the Portuguese government to commence the construction of a floating solar farm in the Alqueva dam reservoir following a successful pilot of the technology.
The €4 million ($4.8 million) 4MW floating solar project will comprise 12,000 solar panels, a 2MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system and is expected to generate 7GWh per annum, enough energy to meet 25% of consumer demand in Portel and Moura. The project is expected to start producing energy by the end of this year.
The floating solar farm will be part of Alqueva plant, a pumped hydropower plant with one of the largest energy storage systems in the country. This project is being designed with a hybrid operation model, as the pumping system makes it possible to use solar and wind power in times of lower consumption to pump water from the reservoir and thus reuse it to produce new hydroelectric power. Integrating the new floating solar project with an existing plant will help EDP cut the costs associated with the construction of new transmission and distribution lines.
The Alqueva project also stands out for its environmental benefits, starting with the exploitation of an unused water mirror area that will not suffer any changes with the installation of these floating panels. Moreover, the production of electricity in floating plants benefits from favorable temperatures, especially during periods of heightened exposure to the sun and the wind. Lower temperatures near water surfaces make it possible to reduce the temperature of photovoltaic panels themselves, thus improving their efficiency; in the case of the Alto Rabagão pilot in which EDP tested some 840 floating solar panels five years ago, such improvement reached 10% compared to equivalent fixed and onshore solutions.
The initiative falls under efforts by EDP to expand its investments in renewable energy resources to align its operations with the Portuguese Government’s Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality 2050. Expanding investments in innovative solutions such as floating renewable energy projects is one pillar EDP plans to leverage to achieve this goal. The floating solar project increases EDP’s renewable energy portfolio to 19GW – 18% of the utility’s total energy generation mix. By investing €19 billion ($23 billion) in renewables over the next five years, EDP will expand its clean energy capacity by an additional 20GW to reach 100% renewables by 2030.