Today’s Solutions: September 22, 2023

Last month we wrote about Greece unveiling Europe’s largest double-sided solar farm. Now another European country is about to claim a significant achievement in the race towards renewables: building the continent’s largest floating solar park.

The solar park will be located in Portugal’s Alqueva reservoir and its construction will reach completion by the end of this year’s summer. The green energy project is now gradually taking shape thanks to tugboats arranging an array of 12,000 solar panels into one huge floating solar farm.

Behind the project is EDP, Portugal’s main utility company, which is building the glimmering solar island on the Alqueva dam, Europe’s largest artificial lake. The ultimate goal is to help the continent cut its dependency on imported fossil fuels whose prices have surged as a result of Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.

The infrastructure is part of Portugal’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Recent efforts to cut reliance on fossil fuels have included shutting down all coal plants in the country, a forward-looking decision also taken by Belgium, Sweden, and Austria.

Exposed to many sunny days throughout the year, Portugal’s floating solar island will generate 7.5GWh of electricity annually, and it will be complemented by lithium batteries with a storage capacity of 2GWh. Overall, the solar panels will supply about 1,500 families with green electricity, or a third of the demand of nearby towns of Portel and Moura.

“This project is the biggest floating solar park in a hydro dam in Europe, it is a very good benchmark,” said Miguel Patena, EDP group director responsible for the solar project.

Floating solar panels are nothing new in the world of renewable power. Similar projects have taken shape in many places, from California to industrial ponds in China, all with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s particularly attractive about floating solar panels is that they don’t require valuable real estate, which is a major advantage for land-scarce places such as Singapore. Those floating on hydropower reservoirs are especially cost-effective since they can connect to existing infrastructure that feeds energy into the grid.

Plus, placing solar farms in hydropower reservoirs has the added benefit of using surplus power generated on sunny days to pump water into the lake for use on cloudy days.

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