California-based solar developer Noria Energy has launched a 1.5MW floating solar power system on the reservoir at Colombia’s Urrá Dam, the largest project of its kind in South America.

Noria conceived and led the development – with the help of its partners 1Solution, DISICO, G&C, Isigenere and Seaflex – as a pilot project for the local independent power producer Urrá. The project aims to demonstrate that hydroelectric dams dealing with fluctuating water levels can pair with floating solar generation to boost energy reliability and increase production.

The ‘Aquasol’ floating solar project has been installed at the 340MW Urrá hydropower plant in the Sinú River basin in Córdoba, Colombia. It comprises more than 2,800 solar modules and is expected to produce nearly 2,400 megawatt-hours of power in its first year, enough to offset the energy used to operate the dam. The project is also forecast to avoid more than 1,540 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, and generate more than $1.2m in additional electric power revenue over 20 years. 

As well as increasing the generating capacity of hydroelectric dams, floating solar systems can help keep power flowing when low water levels or other adverse conditions reduce hydroelectric output. The Noria system is designed to sit on top of the water and withstand water-level fluctuations of up to 120ft. Situating solar facilities on water can also avoid land-use conflicts, and pairing them with dams takes advantage of existing interconnection and other energy infrastructure. 

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

Noria also developed one of the largest floating solar systems in the US: a 4.78MW system that provides around 8% of the electricity for the city of Healdsburg, California.

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By GlobalData