EDP, Corticeira Amorim and Isigenere create cork floater for solar park in Alqueva
EDP's solar energy project will include floaters that mix cork with recycled polymers, with the ambition of achieving a neutral carbon footprint. This innovation was developed in partnership with Corticeira Amorim and Isigenere.
EDP launched the challenge: to create a more sustainable floater for the more than 11 thousand panels and 25 thousand floaters that make up the structure of the future floating solar park in the Alqueva reservoir. After intensive work in collaboration with Corticeira Amorim and the Spanish manufacturer Isigenere, over more than 12 months, it was possible to develop an innovative material, based on a new cork composite, which will be tested for the first time in a renewable energy production project.
This new solution combines cork – a 100% natural, recyclable and biocompatible raw material – with recycled polymers and was developed at i.Cork factory, the pilot plant and innovation hub of Amorim Cork Composites, the composite agglomerates unit of Corticeira Amorim, a Portuguese company that is the largest cork processing group in the world. Isigenere, one of the most innovative international companies in the development of floating solar systems and creator of the Isifloating system, also contributed to the creation of this new technology.
In addition to incorporating cork, the new photovoltaic floater made with this new composite will also replace part of the virgin plastic used in conventional floaters with recycled plastic. EDP believes that, with this more sustainable combination, the floating solar project can achieve a reduction of at least 30% of the CO2 footprint.
“Combining innovation with sustainability is a strategy that EDP considers crucial in the development of its projects, at the same time contributing to an energy transition that we urgently need to accelerate,” says Ana Paula Marques, executive director of EDP and president of EDP Produção.
“This ambition is embodied in projects such as the Alqueva floating solar park, which marks an important step in the expansion and innovation in the field of renewable energies in our country and in our commitment to sustainability. An innovation that is born from an important partnership between great companies - EDP, Corticeira Amorim and Isigenere -, which continually invest in excellence, innovation and development, essential conditions for a more sustainable future,” she concludes.
“Cork has been used in the energy market for a long time, but its potential is now more evident than ever. From solar energy and wind energy, to electric mobility, the ambition is, in the medium term, to make this sector one of the main pillars of growth for Corticeira Amorim in the area of composite materials,” says António Rios de Amorim.
The president and CEO of Corticeira Amorim praises cork for its CO2 removal capacity and emphasizes “the natural technical characteristics of this material. Resistance to extreme temperatures, chemical compatibility, resilience, anti-vibration properties and low thermal conductivity are attributes that enhance the potential of this raw material in numerous applications in this sector.”
The development of sustainable solutions is also the objective of Isigenere, which promotes the use of renewable energy production technologies based on water to improve the efficiency of these systems, without negatively affecting water resources or occupying land. Since its first installation, in 2009, the company has maintained a spirit of innovation in the different technological processes and use of materials in order to be more sustainable – and this partnership with EDP and Corticeira Amorim is another sign of that commitment.
“The use of cork in our Isofloating system is another step in Isigenere's commitment to sustainability. Our experience in floating solar has already led us to develop a system with lower CO2 emissions in the logistics part, which is a key factor in this type of projects. Now we are moving forward with the use of natural and innovative materials that further reduce CO2 emissions, maintaining the high quality and durability that characterize our technology,” explains Andrés Franco, CEO of Isigenere.
An (even more) innovative solar
The main properties of cork – such as impermeability, lightness, elasticity, compressibility and resilience - remain unchanged, ensuring the floater's performance. It should also be noted that, for each ton of cork produced, the cork oak forest can sequester up to 73 tons of CO2. This factor reduces the environmental impact of any solution where cork is applied.
The fact that this photovoltaic floater uses recycled polymers also reinforces Corticeira Amorim's position in terms of sustainability by putting into action the principles of circular economy. By reusing these materials, the company avoids their disposal in landfills, reduces the need to extract virgin raw materials and mitigates the exhaustion of the planet's resources.
With more than 11 thousand photovoltaic panels and 25 thousand floaters that occupy four hectares in the Alqueva reservoir, next to the dam, this park is one of EDP's most innovative solar energy projects. Works will start in the summer and, by the end of this year, it may already be producing energy. With an annual production capacity of 7.5 GWh, the expectation is that it will supply the equivalent of 25% of the consumers in the region (Portel and Moura).
The future solar park represents an investment of more than four million euros and also has a storage system with batteries, integrated in the Alqueva hydropower plant, a pumped hydropower plant and one of the largest energy storage systems in the country. Configured in a hybrid operating model, the system intends to demonstrate the synergy between long-term water storage systems, which allow deferring excess solar production in cheaper hours to higher value hours of the day, and rapid storage systems, with batteries, which will serve to minimize solar production deviations in the market and offer fast flexibility services, essential for a future electrical production system exclusively based on renewable energies.
This project aims to position itself as a solution for the energy market of the future, which, in accordance with the goals of the Paris Agreement, aims for 80% of the electricity consumed in Portugal to be from renewable sources in 2030. This target is in line with EDP's own commitment which, according to the most recent Strategic Plan, wants to be 100% green by the end of this decade.
- About EDP
EDP is a global energy company, present in 22 countries on 4 continents, in the areas of production, transport, distribution and sale of electricity and gas. With more than 12 thousand employees and supplying electricity and gas to more than nine million customers, EDP is at the forefront of innovation and renewable energies. It is the fourth largest producer of wind power in the world and 74% of the energy it produces comes from renewable sources. Recently, the company reinforced its commitment to even more ambitious clean energies and sustainability goals, with the main ambition of being 100% green in 2030. Its strategy involves accelerating decarbonisation, investing 24 billion euros in the energy transition, doubling the capacity in wind and solar power and investing in new technologies, such as green hydrogen. EDP's ambition is to contribute to creating a new energy on the planet and change the future.
- About Corticeira Amorim
Corticeira Amorim is the largest cork processing group in the world. Founded in 1870, the company has currently dozens of business units spread across five continents, exports numerous products to over 100 countries and has a diversified network of 27 thousand customers. Based on its strong sustainability credentials, and developing an activity with a positive impact on climate regulation, Corticeira Amorim provides a set of solutions, materials and products for some of the most technological, disruptive and demanding activities in the world, such as the aerospace, automobile, construction, sports, energy, interior design, and wine and spirits industries. Currently under the leadership of the fourth generation of the family, which cultivates the values of longevity, ambition, pride, attitude and passion, always present in its 150-year history, the company invests millions of euros annually in R&D+i, with 93% of its sales outside Portugal and employing more than 4,400 workers. Adding value to cork, in a competitive, differentiated and innovative way, in perfect harmony with Nature, is therefore the mission of Corticeira Amorim, which in 2020 had 740,1 million euros in consolidated sales.
- About Isigenere
Isigenere is an engineering and development company that created the Isifloating system, a pioneering floating solar system. Isifloating features a unique and patented floating technology that allows partial or complete coverage of the water surface on which solar parks can be built in different bodies of water. Our mission is to preserve the world, using the water surfaces that exist on our planet to generate renewable solar energy more efficiently, protecting water, which is a scarce resource, and at the same time valuable land. Since 2008, Isifloating has been the focus of ongoing and significant investments to improve the technology. The current version of the Isifloating 4.0 system is the most durable, safe and easy to transport system, simple to install, resistant to the most adverse weather conditions and with the lowest operating and maintenance costs on the market. The Agost project, installed in 2009, in the irrigation pond of a Community of Irrigators in southeastern Spain, was one of the first commercial floating projects in the world. Our technology is an excellent choice for projects given its competitive total cost of ownership (TCO), providing the highest quality and most durable product on the market that minimizes risk while providing lower transportation, installation and maintenance costs.