Floating photovoltaic panels may get a new market. In recent years, drought has cut power supplies to several hydroelectric dams across Africa, while scorching sun has caused reservoirs to evaporate. Therefore, some researchers put forward a question. Why not do we use the floating photovoltaic solution
? Floating photovoltaic panels can add power to existing hydroelectric turbines, shielding the water surface and reducing evaporation.
Plans in Africa are a high-profile example. Researchers have a great interest in installing floating photovoltaic panels on reservoirs and other bodies of water (tidal flats, flooded open-cast coal mines, etc.).
The First Reason: Africa has the richest solar energy resources in the world.
In January, researchers at The European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, published a study to explore the huge potential of building hybrid hydropower and solar power stations on Africa, the sunniest continent. Rocio Gonzalez Sanchezreckons, Lead researcher, believes just 1% of the continent's reservoirs could double their capacity to 58 gigawatts by PV panels, increasing the continent's total power generation capacity by a quarter.
Some of the Africa continent's biggest reservoirs could benefit from it. These include the High Aswan on the Nile in Egypt, the Kariba and Cahora Dams on the Zambezi River in southern Africa Bassa) and the Ako-Sombo Dam in Ghana, which loses about a quarter of water evaporation each year due to saharan sunshine. Sanchez says that this is a cheaper option than building more dams. It does not have the environmental, social consequences of reservoirs filling and flooding land.
Africa suffers from a severe shortage of electricity. Many households still do not have access to electricity and unable to meet the demands of fast-growing economies. Hydropower has long been the backbone of electricity in many African countries, but prolonged droughts have made it difficult to sustain. However, Africa has the most solar resources in the world, twice as much as Europe, Mr. Sanchez said. After studying water surface data from 146 large reservoirs across the continent, she sees floating photovoltaic panels as an important opportunity to make the most of existing water resources to generate electricity.
In addition, shading the water with solar panels reduces evaporation. She estimates that this way could help save nearly a billion cubic meters of water on the continent each year. It is enough to add 170 gigawatt hours a year to the output of hydropower turbines.
Many of Africa's hydroelectric dams contain reservoirs that once flooded large tracts of flat land, building a dam not only takes up a lot of land but also it is vulnerable to evaporation and water depletion. However, floating photovoltaic panels over large areas of water could turn the disadvantage into a benefit.
Kenya already has plans to build floating photovoltaic power plants in three reservoirs on the Tana and Turkwel rivers. Other reservoirs with large bodies of water that Sanchez sees as suitable for floating solar are the Kai Nji dam in Nigeria, the Merowe and Roseires in Sudan, Buyo in Ivory Coast, Lagdo in Cameroon and Tanzani The Yamtetella reservoir in Mtera.