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South America’s largest ever floating solar project launched

by Liam Turner
Floating solar panels

South America’s largest ever floating solar power initiative has been launched in Colombia.

Led by floating solar energy specialist Noria Energy, the 1.5 MW project comprises a series of floating solar panels installed on the reservoir at Colombia’s Urrá Dam.

It is hoped that the scheme will demonstrate that hydroelectric dams dealing with fluctuating water levels can pair with floating solar generation to boost energy reliability and increase production. 

Noria also developed one of the largest floating solar systems currently operating in North America: a 4.78 MW system that provides about 8% of the electricity for the city of Healdsburg, California.

‘Countless opportunities’

Noria Energy CEO Jonathan Wank said: “Worldwide, around 60% of renewable energy comes from hydropower – that represents countless opportunities to deploy floating solar that can maximize zero-emission energy generation and diversify clean energy sources.”

In addition to boosting total generating capacity of hydroelectric dams, Noria says its solar systems can help keep power flowing when low water levels or other adverse conditions reduce hydroelectric output.

The floating solar system is designed to sit on top of the water and withstand water-level fluctuations of up to 120 feet.

Siting solar facilities on water also avoids land-use conflicts, Noria says, and pairing them with dams takes advantage of existing interconnection and other energy infrastructure

Noria Energy – along with its partners 1Solution, DISICO S.A, G&C, Isigenere, and Seaflex – designed, developed, and installed the floating photovoltaic system as a pilot project for the independent power producer URRÁ S.A. E.S.P.

Rafael Amaya del Vecchio, president of URRÁ S. A. E.S.P., said: “URRÁ seeks to incorporate innovation and sustainable development in all its operations.

“We are very proud that Aquasol is the largest floating photovoltaic plant built at a reservoir of a hydroelectric power plant in South America to date.”

The Urrá pilot – called Aquasol – is installed at the 340 MW Urrá hydropower plant in the Sinú River basin in Córdoba.

Aquasol consists of over 2,800 solar modules and is expected to produce nearly 2,400 MWh of power in its first year — enough to offset the amount of energy it takes to operate the dam.

Additionally, Aquasol is expected to avoid more than 1,540 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year and generate over $1.2m (c.£940,000) in additional electric power revenue over 20 years.

Jairo Criollo, Noria’s co-founder and head of business development, also a Colombia native, said: “Our technology demonstrates that we can expand solar’s reach and reimagine its power to address critical energy needs.

“I’m thrilled that my home country is hosting this innovative project.

“What we have learned from this project will help us develop other Aquasol projects in Colombia and around the world.”

As part of the pilot project, Noria Energy will assist in comparing Aquasol’s production and efficiency to that of a ground-mounted solar system installed on the shore.

Additionally, Noria will use the data from Aquasol to design and model larger-scale systems to maximise the generation potential of floating solar and hydroelectric dams.

Image: Jenson/Shutterstock


Read next: Hong Kong Polytechnic University researchers break world record with organic solar cells

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