Pictured is an artist’s impression of a schematic hybrid floating PV and hydropower system that, as per the NREL research, offer a significant potential to account for global electricity generation. (Source: NREL)
- NREL research sees technical potential for 7.6 TW annual solar power production from floating solar panels deployed on hydropower sites
- This hybridization can lower transmission costs and allow the 2 technologies to complement each other
- They count 379,068 freshwater hydropower reservoirs globally that can be considered fit for floating PV installations, after further in-depth study of onsite conditions
- Purpose of the research work is to also support national policy decisions related to their power systems
The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) believes there is technical potential for as much as 7.6 TW of power capacity from floating solar panels installed on bodies of water owned by hydropower stations, translating into 10,600 TWh of potential annual generation globally.
This estimate does not include the amount generated from hydropower on site. The analysts offer global final electricity consumption statistics of over 22,300 TWh in 2018 as a comparison to the potential of floating PV to produce a significant portion of the electricity generated annually, across the world.
A hybrid power system comprising both these technologies can make use of similar transmission systems thereby reducing costs and can complement each other during the time and season when the other lies low. The analysts also suggest that operators of a hybrid system could use pumped storage hydropower to store excess solar generation.
“This does not represent what could be economically feasible or what the markets could actually support. Rather, it is an upper-bound estimate of feasible resources that considers waterbody constraints and generation system performance,” said Nathan Lee, NREL’s Integrated Decision Support Group Researcher and Lead Author of the paper published in the journal Renewable Energy.
The scientists make this assertion in their research work titled Hybrid floating solar photovoltaics-hydropower systems: Benefits and global assessment of technical potential published in the journal Renewable Energy. It can be accessed on Science Direct website.
A total of 379,068 freshwater hydropower reservoirs across the globe can have floating solar PV installed on existing hydropower facilities, the NREL analysis suggests however it cautions this needs more detailed siting data since some of the locations may be dry or not conducive to hosting floating PV panels.
“Scaling the global assessment approach presented here to the country or regional level could support key power system planning decisions internationally. In particular, this could enable policy design and target setting, investment decisions, and planning that supports resilience and cross-border trade and integration,” stated the researchers.
A November 2018 market report from the World Bank and Singapore’s SERIS claimed over 400 GW of global floating solar PV capacity potential under conservative assumptions, if only 1% of the available area is used. The World Bank report claims using 5% surface area carries the potential for 2,022 GW of floating PV and 10% area may lead to 4,044 GW of floating PV being deployed.(see World Bank: Gigantic Potential For Floating PV).