Portugal set to start Europe's largest floating solar park

Portugal set to start Europe’s largest floating solar park

ALQUEVA, Portugal, May 9 (Reuters) – Two tugboats have moved a huge array of 12,000 solar panels, the size of four football pitches, to their mooring on Portugal’s Alqueva reservoir in preparation for starting the largest Europe’s floating solar park in July.

Built by the country’s main utility EDP (EDP.LS) on Western Europe’s largest man-made lake, the shining floating island is part of Portugal’s plan to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels whose prices have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Benefiting from long hours of sunshine and Atlantic winds, Portugal has accelerated its transition to renewable energy. But even though Portugal uses almost no Russian hydrocarbons, its gas-fired power plants are still under pressure from rising fuel prices.

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Miguel Patena, director of the EDP group in charge of the solar project, said on Thursday, when the tugs put the panels in place, 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.

The Alqueva reservoir panels, used to generate hydroelectricity, would produce 7.5 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, and would be supplemented by lithium batteries to store 2 GWh.

The solar panels will supply 1,500 families with electricity, or a third of the needs of the neighboring towns of Moura and Portel.

“This project is the largest floating solar park in a hydroelectric dam in Europe, it is a very good reference,” Patena said.

Solar panels mounted on pontoons on lakes or at sea have been installed in various locations, from California to polluted industrial basins in China, in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions.

Floating panels do not require valuable real estate and those in reservoirs used for hydropower are particularly cost effective as they can connect to existing links to the power grid. Excess electricity generated on sunny days can pump water into the lake to be stored for use on cloudy days or at night.

Ana Paula Marques, board member of EDP, said the war in Ukraine showed the need to accelerate the transition to renewable energy

She said the Alqueva project was part of EDP’s strategy “to go 100% green by 2030”, with hydro and other renewables now accounting for 78% of the 25.6 GW of installed capacity. of EDP.

In 2017, EDP installed a floating solar pilot project with 840 panels on the Alto Rabagao dam, the first in Europe to test the complementarity of hydro and solar energy.

EDP ​​is already considering expanding Alqueva’s project. In April, it obtained the right to build a second floating farm with an installed capacity of 70 MW.

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Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Edmund Blair

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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