Statkraft’s floating photovoltaic plant on the reservoir of its Banja hydropower plant in Albania has 2 MW in capacity and consists of four units. It is the only such power plant in Southeastern Europe except for a few pilot projects in Turkey.
Four years after Statkraft filed a request with the relevant ministry, the contractor completed its floating solar power plant on an artificial lake near Gramsh in central Albania. Ocean Sun, which is also a Norwegian company, said the second phase was done already in December.
Right after the first floater with a diameter of 68.8 meters and 500 kW in capacity was installed in mid-2021, a tornado severely damaged it. The unit was declared repaired almost a year later and the remaining three of equal size were added after that.
The first of four units was hit and damaged by a tornado just days after it was installed
Statkraft has the largest hydropower plant portfolio in Europe. It also operates wind power, solar power, gas-fired power plants and district heating facilities. The new floating photovoltaic unit is on the reservoir of its 72 MW Banja hydropower plant, on the Devoll river. Both companies are betting on a possible advantage in market terms from a new engineering solution for the emerging technology.
The ring-fenced system was carried out within plan and budget, with significant improvements to the installation speed, Ocean Sun said in its quarterly report. The facility is producing according to expectations, confirming the positive results seen from the first floater, it added.
The 2 MW power plant will generate an estimated 3 GWh per year. With the exception of a few pilot projects in Turkey, it is the first deployment of the technology in Southeastern Europe.
Numerous unknowns about new technology
According to earlier announcements, Ocean Sun’s rafts have a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) ring and a membrane that is only a millimeter or so thick. The material can hold both the solar panels and workers that install them or perform maintenance.
The advantage of so-called floatovoltaics is that they can be installed without property ownership issues. Water cools the panels from underneath, boosting performance. In turn, their shadow reduces evaporation from the lake, which is useful for hydropower plant operators and water supply.
On the other hand, the risk from extreme weather events is still being assessed. Furthermore, the debate is still on whether the lack of sunshine from covering the surface of a lake can spur the growth of toxic algae and reduce the amount of deepwater oxygen. It would affect flora and fauna and carbon dynamics, implying that the covered surface needs to be limited.
Floatovoltaics advancing at slow pace in Balkans
One more floating solar power plant project is underway in Albania in combination with a hydropower plant, but also with a solar power facility set up on the dam. When multiple electricity sources are integrated or a power plant adds batteries, it is called a hybrid power plant.
Private and state-owned utilities in Greece, Romania and Montenegro are also making the first steps to utilize the new technology. Slovenia recently tabled renewable energy deployment legislation including floating PV.
German company Profine Energy plans to build a massive floating solar power plant on the Ogosta artificial lake in Bulgaria, which sparked protests.
Italian companies are developing several projects for a combination of offshore wind power, including floating turbines, and floating solar power plants in the Adriatic Sea.
Ocean Sun is eyeing global expansion
In 2021, MP Quantum Group and Ocean Sun signed a long-term collaboration agreement for floating solar in Greece and Cyprus. Work has intensified around two demonstration facilities last year, according to Ocean Sun.
The firm recently installed the first ever commercial floating solar power plant on the sea. At the same time, it integrated it with an offshore wind turbine, creating the first such hybrid power plant. Ocean Sun is developing two more projects in Singapore and another one in China.