The São Francisco River in Brazil now has a solar power plant that floats on water. The news was announced by a Brazilian research institute, Agência Brasil, which says that the new Floating Photovoltaic Solar Plant was installed in the reservoir of the Sobradinho Hydroelectric Plant in Bahia, and is expected to start operating in December.
The pilot platform installed in Sobradinho has 7.3 thousand modules of solar panels, covering an area of 10 thousand square meters and with a generating capacity of 1 megawatt-peak (MWp). According to Agência Brasil, another 4 MWp will be implemented in 2019, concluding the project, which, when completed, will have 35 thousand modules and 50 thousand square meters, all at an investment cost of R $ 56 million, made by Companhia Hidro Elétrica of San Francisco (Chesf). By the end of the project, it could provide power for up to 20,000 homes.
The new photovoltaic system turns sunlight into electricity and, floating on and cooled by water and wind, is supposed to be more effective than plates placed on the ground, which lose efficiency under the strong heat. However, Chesf’s project technicians are still going to study the exact efficiency of the technology and the possible environmental impacts. “The 1 MWp plant would apparently not interfere, but if we expand to 30 MWp or 100 MWp, we need to see the behavior of the aquatic fauna,” said José Bione, Chesf’s Research, Development and Innovation manager at Agência Brasil .
Until then installed only in the soil, this system of concentrated generation of photovoltaic energy using reservoir area is pioneer in Brazil. Chesf says it seeks to assess its viability, both in technical and economic terms as well as environmental, so that it can participate in energy sale auctions later, being reproduced in other reservoirs or even rivers. Bione says the project is creating an opportunity, as it can be well replicated in locations where Brazil has several rivers, such as the Amazon and in the Midwest.
Minister of Mines and Energy, Moreira Franco visited the new plant and reinforced the need to diversify the energy matrix in Brazil, while creating conditions for the productive potential of the voltaic energy source in the country, with locally produced equipment and at cheaper costs. “In the Northeast, for example, we have to create a model that allows wind and sun, which are cheaper energy sources, to benefit consumers,” he said in a statement reproduced by Agência Brasil . “You can not repeat the same methods, have the same models that have generated one of the most expensive energies in the world.”