Portugal will launch the largest floating solar park in Europe

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

The gleaming floating island, built by the main state-owned company EDP (EDP.LS) on the largest artificial lake in Western Europe, is part of Portugal’s plan to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels whose prices have risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blessed with long hours of sunshine and Atlantic winds, Portugal has accelerated its transition to renewable energy. But while Portugal uses almost no Russian hydrocarbons, its gas-fired power plants continue to feel the pressure of rising fuel prices.

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Miguel Patena, director of the EDP group in charge of the solar project, said on Thursday when tugboats moved the panels to a position that electricity produced from the floating fleet, with an installed capacity of 5 megawatts (MW), would cost a third of that produced from the gas plant.

The panels on the Alqueva Reservoir, which is used to produce hydropower, would produce 7.5 gigawatts / hour (GWh) of electricity per year, and would be supplemented with lithium batteries to store 2 GWh.

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

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

Solar panels mounted on pontoons on lakes or at sea have been installed in a number of places from California to polluted industrial ponds in China, in a fight to reduce CO2 emissions.

Floating panels do not require valuable real estate, and those on reservoirs used for hydropower are particularly cost-effective as they can be connected to existing electricity grid connections. Excess energy produced on sunny days can pump water into the lake to be stored for use on cloudy days or at night.

EDP ​​Executive Board member Ana Paula Marques said the war in Ukraine showed the need to speed up the transition to renewable energy

She said the Alqueva project is part of EDP’s strategy “to become 100% green by 2030”, and hydropower and other renewables now make up 78% of EDP’s 25.6 GW of installed capacity.

In 2017, EDP installed a pilot floating solar project with 840 panels on the Alto Rabagao Dam, the first in Europe to test how hydro and solar energy can complement each other.

EDP ​​already has plans to expand the Alqueva project. In April, it secured the right to build a second floating farm with an installed capacity of 70 MW.

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Sergio Goncalves’ reporting; Editors Andrei Khalip and Edmund Blair

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