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Solar & Hydro Hybridization: Ciel & Terre’s Floating PV Plant on Sobradinho Hydrolectric Dam

Sobradinho hydroelectric plant, located in the state of Bahia, Brazil, is now upgraded with a floating solar system developed by Ciel & Terre® in partnership with SUNLUTION. The combination of the two energies – Solar and Hydro – is an answer to meet the region’s electricity consumption needs.

This 1 MWp floating photovoltaic project, inaugurated this summer, was developed by SUNLUTION, a Brazilian company Ciel & Terre’s licensee. Ciel & Terre® fully designed the Hydrelio® floating array and the anchoring system considering the needs of the CHESF (São Francisco Hydroelectric Company) reservoir.

©Ciel & Terre International – Hydrelio® floating PV system

THE FIRST MW-SCALE FLOATING PV PLANT IN BRAZIL

After the 305 kWp floating solar plant installed on the Goiás farm by SUNLUTION, licensed from Ciel & Terre in Brazil, Sobradinho dam floating solar array is the first reaching the MW-scale in the country. The 1.01 MW plant took shape in the state of Bahia, on the São Francisco river, one of Brazil’s biggest stream. With its 3,792 panels, the floating solar facility is expected to produce 1.7 MWh per year. The Hydrelio® floating solar system was produced locally in Brazil.

Yet, the plant is growing bigger. Sobradinho dam’s floating solar plant’s capacity should still increase by 1.5 MWp by January of 2020. The facility should then reach 2.5 MWp and produce more than 4.2 MWh per year. Owing to the pond’s type, Ciel & Terre® designed a specific bottom anchor system design, which is elastic and capable of supporting a water level variation of 13 m.

A PROMISING COMBINATION…

The combination of hydro- and solar power is not fortuitous. It derives from the necessity to respond to the important energy demand at any time. Indeed, pairing the two technologies summarily prevents from any interruption in the energy production: hydropower takes charge of the solar power intermittence. In Sobradinho’s case, floating solar use is all the more relevant as the 1970’s dam has been altered by climate change (drought issues mainly), impacting directly the electricity needs, which were not entirely fulfilled any longer.

… IN A HIGH POTENTIAL MARKET

The client for Sobradinho dam’s floating PV plant, CHESF (Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco), is an Eletrobras subsidiary, the biggest Brazilian energy company. CHESF currently owns and operates 12 hydroelectric plants, corresponding to 10 GWp of installed capacity. If CHESF uses 10% of the surfaces of all their reservoirs, they can install up to 52 GWp of FPV projects!
At a national scale, hydropower is actually the main power-generating source – 61% of the energy mix in 2017 according to Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (Country Analysis Executive Summary: Brazil, updated in April 2019). This strongly emphasizes the idea that hydro-PV systems show clear relevance for such a country. In addition, SUNLUTION estimates the Brasilian market can do up 2.5 GW of FPV in the next ten years.

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