The first of four rafts with solar panels and a diameter of 70 meters is scheduled to be finished before the end of December, according to Statkraft, which is installing the first floating photovoltaic plant in Albania with Ocean Sun from Norway.
Ocean Sun is delivering a floating 500 kW direct current system for the first phase of a solar power plant that Statkraft will install at its Banja hydropower plant in Albania. It is a long-planned floating photovoltaic pilot project at the facility’s reservoir and both Norwegian companies are betting on a possible advantage in market terms from a new engineering solution for the emerging technology.
The first of four equivalent rafts with a diameter of 70 meters is expected to be complete by the end of the year, according to the announcement. Ocean Sun’s rafts have a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) ring and a membrane that is only a millimeter or so thick.
The thin membrane withstands the weight of the equipment but installers and maintenance workers are safe as well
The material can hold both the solar panels and workers that install them or perform maintenance. The inspiration came from the domestic aquaculture industry and its strict standards for fish farms. Ocean Sun’s CEO Børge Bjørneklett recently said the system is intended for near-shore and semi-sheltered surfaces.
The 2 MW floating photovoltaic plant, for which Statkraft has conducted thorough testing, should cover 1.5 hectares. The pilot in the country’s central part has an estimated total investment of EUR 2 million and will be placed at the reservoir where Statkraft is operating its 72 MW Banja hydropower plant.
If the 2 MW floating solar power plant turns out to be profitable, Statkraft will examine the possibility to implement the solution at the reservoirs of its other hydroelectric units
The remaining three 500 kW floating photovoltaic units are scheduled to be constructed next year, Statkraft revealed. It said it may apply the technology in its other locations if it is proven successful cost competitive.
“The project represents the first sizable installation in the south of Europe and a milestone in our pursuit of clean and affordable energy from floating solar power globally”, Bjørneklett stated.
Integration of photovoltaics with hydropower is attractive for investors as existing power plants are already connected to the grid and access is cheap. Furthermore, dry seasons with less water flow correspond to periods of high solar insolation and vice versa, so the two systems are complementary and make up a hybrid power plant.
Government-controlled KESH is planning to develop a 12.9 MW facility in the north of Albania.