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Colombia’s Aquasol Project: South America’s Largest Floating Solar System Boosts Hydroelectric Generation
In a remarkable display of renewable energy synergy, two projects located thousands of miles apart and separated by an ocean are showcasing the harmonious combination of floating solar power plants and hydropower facilities.
EDF Group, through its subsidiary EDF Renewables, has successfully launched the Lazer floating solar power plant, marking the first of its kind in France. Situated on the reservoir adjacent to the 16.5 MW Lazer hydropower plant, this innovative installation effectively doubles the site’s capacity for generating renewable electricity.
With over 50,000 solar panels, the Lazer floating solar power plant boasts a total installed capacity of 20 MWp (megawatts peak). This facility significantly contributes to France’s ambitious goal of achieving 100 GW of solar energy capacity by 2050, according to EDF.
By complementing the hydropower scheme, particularly during the summer months when the water from Lazer Reservoir is primarily utilized for crop irrigation, the solar power plant ensures a continuous supply of electricity. Through its anchor and float systems, the facility effortlessly adjusts to changes in the reservoir’s water level, without affecting its operational efficiency.
Having been selected as a winning candidate in the call for proposals by the French Energy Regulatory Commission in 2018, the project was officially launched in 2017. In 2021, a participatory financing campaign was initiated, allowing the local community to invest €179,000 (US$227,500).
Construction of the solar power plant commenced in the same year, involving geotechnical studies and the placement of anchors. The photovoltaic panels were then assembled on their floating platforms, formed into groups called islets, and transported by boat to their designated location. Anticipated to operate for approximately 30 years, the floating solar power plant is a testament to the EDF Group’s expertise and innovative capabilities.
Bruno Bensasson, the Senior Executive Vice President of Renewable Energies at EDF Group, expressed pride in inaugurating the Lazer floating solar power plant. He emphasized that this groundbreaking project exemplifies the complementary nature of the EDF Group’s knowledge and their commitment to innovation. Drawing from their international experience, with four floating solar power plants already established in Israel and the U.S., EDF Renewables successfully combined two sources of renewable electricity generation at a single site. Bensasson noted that this achievement contributes to France’s objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
EDF Renewables also highlighted that the Lazer facility strengthens their presence in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region. In 2023, alongside Lazer, five new solar power plants will begin operations, expanding EDF Renewables’ total solar generation capacity in the region to 85 MW, in addition to the five existing facilities already in operation.
Apart from EDF’s endeavors in France, a floating solar power system with a capacity of 1.5 MW is being implemented on the reservoir of Colombia’s Urrá Dam, showcasing the potential synergy between hydroelectric projects and floating solar generation. Developed by Noria Energy, the Aquasol solar project is the largest of its kind in South America.
Located at the Urrá hydropower plant in the Sinú River basin in Córdoba, Aquasol comprises over 2,800 solar modules and is anticipated to generate nearly 2,400 MWh of power in its first year. This energy production is equivalent to offsetting the operational energy consumption of the dam. Aquasol is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,540 tons annually and generate over $1.2 million in additional revenue from electricity over a 20-year period.
In addition to increasing the overall capacity of hydroelectric facilities, floating solar systems provide an advantageous solution when water levels are low or other adverse conditions affect hydroelectric output. The floating solar system at Urrá Dam is designed to withstand fluctuations in water levels of up to 120 feet. By utilizing water surfaces for solar installations, land-use conflicts can be avoided, while the integration with hydro plants allows for the utilization of existing interconnections and other energy infrastructure.
Jonathan Wank, CEO of Noria Energy, emphasized the immense potential for floating solar to enhance zero-emission energy generation and diversify clean energy sources, particularly in the context of hydropower, which contributes to approximately 60% of global renewable energy generation.
The Aquasol project was developed by Noria Energy in collaboration with partners 1Solution, DISICO S.A, G&C, Isigenere, and Seaflex, acting as a pilot project for URRÁ S.A. E.S.P., an independent power producer. URRÁ aims to incorporate innovation and sustainable development into its operations, and the company expressed pride in the construction of the largest floating photovoltaic plant on a hydroelectric reservoir in South America.
As part of the pilot project, Noria Energy will compare Aquasol’s performance and efficiency with that of a ground-mounted solar system installed on the shore. Furthermore, the data collected from Aquasol will inform the design and modeling of larger-scale systems to maximize the generation potential of floating solar and hydroelectric reservoirs.
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