Photo: Clipdealer

Float­ing solar pan­els on 1% of reser­voirs could dou­ble Africa’s hydropow­er capacity

Africa is char­ac­terised by a very high solar poten­tial, with an annu­al sum of solar radi­a­tion of over 2000 kWh/m2. Many African coun­tries are heav­i­ly depen­dent on hydropow­er, but increas­ing­ly fre­quent droughts have severe­ly affect­ed hydropow­er pro­duc­tion in recent decades. The instal­la­tion of float­ing pho­to­voltaics (FPV) in exist­ing hydropow­er reser­voirs would pro­vide solar pow­er to com­pen­sate for hydropow­er gen­er­a­tion dur­ing dry peri­ods and reduce evap­o­ra­tion loss­es while help­ing to sus­tain­ably meet the cur­rent and future ener­gy needs of the rapid­ly grow­ing African population. 

A new study pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of the poten­tial of FPV instal­la­tion in Africa using high-pre­ci­sion water sur­face data from the con­ti­nen­t’s largest 146 hydropow­er reser­voirs. In addi­tion to elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion, the evap­o­ra­tive sav­ings and poten­tial addi­tion­al hydropow­er gen­er­at­ed by these water sav­ings are also esti­mat­ed at the reser­voir lev­el for four dif­fer­ent cas­es and two types of float­ing struc­tures. The results show that with an over­all cov­er­age of less than 1%, the installed capac­i­ty of exist­ing hydropow­er plants can be dou­bled and elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion increased by 58%, gen­er­at­ing an addi­tion­al 46.04 TWh per year. In this case, water sav­ings could reach 743 mil­lion m3/year and increase annu­al hydro­elec­tric pow­er gen­er­a­tion by 170.64 GWh.

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