The Norwegian government has decided to support, with NOK79 million ($9.1 million), a research project led by Norway-based renewable energy developer Scatec and aimed at developing a large scale, hybrid hydro and floating solar power plant at an undisclosed location in West Africa.
The Norwegian consortium includes floating PV specialist Ocean Sun, independent research organization Sintef, software provider Prediktor, the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), and Norwegian solar industry body the Solenergiklyngen.
“[A] Scatec power plant will be planned, for hybrid hydropower and floating solar right from the beginning, as a first in the world,” Ocean Sun CEO Børge Bjørneklett told pv magazine. “Normally, floating solar power is an add-on to existing hydropower plants but this project will be developed specifically as a greenfield combo plant with overall low LCOE. PV and hydropower are complementary on a seasonal basis and hydropower can convert intermittent PV into higher-value steady power.”
The project includes the development of a platform for planning, scaling, and optimizing the operation of hybrid power plants. According to Bjørneklett, the optimization of the two power-generating elements gives benefits for water remediation technology and the dimensioning of the reservoir and the basin, as well as for defining early production levels from the solar plant during the construction phase. The project will also explore adaptations of the Ocean Sun system for amphibious use during the gradual filling of the reservoir.”
According to him, reduced water evaporation and PV cooling effects will be of key importance in the project. “Together with Prediktor and internet-of-things experts, the consortium will develop novel control mechanisms for the optimization and fine-tuning of the hybrid power [plant's] production,” the CEO stated.
No more technical or financial details of the project were revealed.
Scatec recently acquired the SN Power hydropower operator belonging to Norwegian state-owned private equity business Norfund. SN Power has 2.5 GW of hydro assets in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. “Hydropower and solar PV are complementary technologies, resulting in new project opportunities, for instance floating solar on hydro reservoirs,” said Scatec Solar CEO Raymond Carlsen in October 2020, when the operation was finalized. “With this transaction, we see great potential in broader project origination and geographical expansion into growth markets in South East Asia and sub-Sahara[n] Africa.”
Ocean Sun has developed an innovative design for floating PV projects at near-shore locations and in semi-sheltered waters. The patented system consists of PV modules on floating membranes, inside buoyancy rings anchored to the seabed. with four mooring points and 12 lines.
Sintef recently unveiled a special floating structure that Norwegian energy company Equinor wants to deploy in offshore waters. The structure is built with an anchoring system that is claimed to give the installation enough freedom to cope with the waves.