Europe’s largest floating solar farm is ready to generate 7.5 gigawatt-hours annually starting in July, according to Reuters.
The solar farm is built by Portugal’s main utility Energias de Portugal (EDP), on Western Europe's biggest artificial lake, the Alqueva reservoir. A vast array of 12,000 solar panels, the size of four soccer fields, is moved by two tugboats to their mooring. The solar panels will also be paired with lithium batteries that can store 2 GWh. It will be able to power around 1,500 households.
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Portugal plans to cut reliance on imported fossil fuels as the prices surge since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The country currently relies on Russia for about 10 percent of its natural gas, and this new floating solar farm will reduce that dependency.
Miguel Patena, EDP group director in charge of the solar project, said that the electricity produced from the floating park, with an installed capacity of 5 megawatts (MW), would cost a third of that produced from a gas-fired plant.
"This project is the biggest floating solar park in a hydro dam in Europe, it is a very good benchmark," Patena said.
EDP executive board member Ana Paula Marques said the Alqueva project was part of EDP's strategy "to go 100 percent green by 2030". Hydropower and other renewables are currently accounting for 78 percent of EDP's 25.6 GW of installed capacity.
In 2017, EDP installed the first pilot floating solar project in Europe with 840 panels on the Alto Rabagao dam to test how hydro and solar power could complement each other.
EDP already has plans to expand the Alqueva project and secured the right to build a second floating farm with a 70 MW installed capacity in April.
Other floating farms around the world
Floating panels are particularly cost-effective as they can hook up to existing links to the power grid as they do not require valuable real estate and those on reservoirs used for hydropower.
Many countries have built floating solar panels to get as much sustainable energy as possible.
Last year Taiwan built the world’s largest floating solar farm, with 145,000 solar panels, at the Sirindhorn Dam on the Lam Dom Noi River, generating 45MW power.
Another good example is the world's first mountain solar farm located at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level on the Lac des Toules reservoir in Valais, Switzerland. Built by Romande Energie, the project has won the Swiss Watt d'Or prize, for the best in renewable energy innovation 2020. The floating solar farm produces approximately 800-megawatt hours per year.
Singapore has also officially opened its floating solar farm, which is composed of 122,000 solar panels spanning 45 hectares, on the Tengeh Reservoir, and generating 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar photovoltaic (PV) in a bid to help the country do its part in tackling the global climate crisis.