Brazil recently installed a floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the reservoir waters of a hydroelectric project. The new floating PV installation is located at the Balbina hydroelectric power in the Amazon.
Many of the regions in Brazil, including Amazon rainforest area, have been suffering from severe drought. Water levels at many Brazilian dams have declined to dangerously low levels. The new floating PV installation is a means of diversifying the project’s generation capabilities, thereby improving resilience against drought – according to the country’s energy agency EPE.
The Balbina pilot project is a large platform with 50,000 square meters (540,000 square feet) of solar panels, about the size of 5 football fields. While the first phase of one megawatt (MW) was just completed, plans are in the works to expand the project to a 5MW generation capacity in total, enough to supply 9,000 homes with power. Engineers hope to increase the output to 300 megawatts, allowing Balbina to produce electricity for 540,000 homes.
A similar project at the Sobradinho hydroelectric facility in Bahia, Brazil is also in progress.
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.