Converting solar energy into electricity with photovoltaic technology is an increasingly cheaper and efficient process. Portugal has one of the highest solar resource levels in Europe, but using it implies the occupation of large territorial areas.
Using areas taken up by hydraulic facilities, whether applied to hydroelectric, irrigation or multiple purposes, is an opportunity: it avoids the occupation of other useful areas while reusing existing electrical grids that hydroelectric plants only use on a seasonal basis. Because there's more sun when there's less rain and vice versa.
Recognizing this context and this opportunity, EDP has inaugurated a floating photovoltaic solar power plant in the Rabagão river dam in Montalegre. A pioneering facility in Europe, this pilot project will test the complementarity between solar and hydroelectric power, as well as the environmental and economic advantages of this new technology.
With 840 solar panels occupying an area of 2500 square meters, the platform, which is the outcome of a partnership between EDP Produção, EDP Renováveis and EDP Comercial, has an installed capacity of approximately 220 kWp and an estimated annual production of around 300 MWh.
Studies to implement this plant began in 2015, and the construction process, which involved 13 suppliers (mostly Portuguese) and up to 25 workers, started in June 2016.
EDP has invested €450.000 in the installation of this pilot unit, which will allow us to understand the implications, advantages and disadvantages of installing photovoltaic conversion panels in floating platforms, and of operating them in articulation with hydroelectric facilities. The project also intends to prove that this solution has clear environmental benefits for the water body, and that this happens because it reuses existing facilities, thus avoiding the construction of new transport lines.
The Alto Rabagão reservoir was selected because its adverse climatic and spatial conditions allow us to test this technology in extreme conditions. It also has a deep valley with rocky soil and significant depth variations, which allowed us to test different mooring solutions.