Technology

Floating solar power is the next step from renewables. And China already has the largest plant in the world

Floating solar farms are gradually gaining strength. Their advantages, such as saving space on land, the ease with which they are installed or the benefits of water cooling on their performance, make them an increasingly popular option in the commitment to renewable energies and the transition to leave fossil fuels behind. In Portugal, without going any further, they have just announced a huge “solar island” with 12,000 panels deployed in a reservoir in Alentejo.

The Portuguese proposal falls short, however, when compared to the enormous complex that they have put into operation in China, at the moment the largest “photovoltaic farm” in the world.

The facility, promoted by Huaneng Power International (HPI), reaches 320MW and is distributed in a 593-hectare reservoir located near the Dezhou Thermal Power Plant in Shandong. According to Seetao, the panels extend over a good part of the surface.

One project, two phases

The plant was built in two successive phases. The first, of 200 MW, included a storage capacity of 8MWh and was completed in 2020. The second, of 120 MW, was finished in 2021 and was activated at full capacity at the beginning of this year. Those responsible for the facility expect it to generate about 550 million kWh of clean energy annually, which will allow a considerable cut in both coal consumption and CO2 emissions.

The Dezhou floating solar farm is part of a larger project that also includes a 100 MW wind farm and 8 MWh battery storage capacity. Together, the three endowments are integrated into the infrastructure that supplies energy to the network.

Dezhou’s new “solar farm” won’t hold its record for long. In 2023, a floating facility located at the Omkareshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh (India) is expected to come into operation, with a total capacity that, once 100% activated, will almost double the Chinese endowment: 600MW. A week ago progress was made in its bidding procedures.

HPI’s new facility at its Huanneng Reservoir isn’t the first large floating “solar farm” either. In recent years, different projects have been taking place, such as Kyocera in Japan; that of the Panji district, in China; that of the Sirindhorn dam, in Thailand, or the one that has just been announced in the Alqueba reservoir, located in the southern region of the country.

Cover Image | SASAC

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