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.