Renewable energy company Statkraft has started commercial operations at the first unit of its floating solar power plant in Albania in cooperation with Norwegian supplier Ocean Sun. The two companies have implemented an innovative solution for floating solar projects.
Floating solar project is located at the Banja reservoir in Albania, where Statkraft is operating its 72 MW Banja hydropower plant. The first unit has an installed capacity of 500 kW.
The project is expected to continue its second implementation phase during the second half of 2021, whereby additional three floating units will be installed, with a combined additional capacity of 1.5 MW, Statkraft said.
After the successful completion of the first floating solar unit and connection to the grid, the plant is now generating renewable energy and injecting the power into the Albanian national electricity grid.
The first unit comprises 1,536 solar panels and covers almost 4,000 square meters. In addition, 160 panels have been placed on land for comparison and documentation of the cooling effect on the floating panels.
According to Statkraft, floating solar power involves installing solar panels on floating structures on a body of water, such as a lake, fjord or ocean, or in a hydropower reservoir. Each unit consists of a floating ring and a thin membrane. Combined with the cooling of the panels from the water below, the membrane and the large area make the concept unique.
The technology is developed by Ocean Sun and although the membrane is only a few millimeters thick, it can easily withstand the weight of the solar panels and of personnel carrying out installation or maintenance tasks.
Apart from HPP Banja, Statkraft operates another hydropower plant – Moglice, with an installed capacity of 197 MW, opened last year.
Albania is a very promising location for solar projects, because of the high number of sunshine hours. Recently the country has finished the third auction for the construction of solar power plants. Albania’s power utility KESH is also developing a 12.9 MW floating solar facility in the north of Albania, as well as a 5.1 MW solar power plant at one of the three dams at the reservoir of its Vau i Dejës hydropower plant.
Milestone in an innovative floating solar project
CEO of Statkraft Christian Rynning-Tønnesen said the first unit is a great milestone in an innovative floating solar project.
“We are looking forward to the concrete results of this demonstration project to assess the potential for further expansion of this exciting technology,” he said. According to Rigela Gegprifti, Statkraft’s Country Head in Albania, the achievement marks an important milestone for the company in Albania.
“After the start of commercial operations of our Banja and Moglice hydropower plants, we are looking into further optimising these renewable assets. The Banja Floating Solar Plant is a concrete example for further integration of different resources of renewable energy,” she said.
CEO of Ocean Sun Børge Bjørneklett that the company looks forward to the second stage of the project and to demonstrate the high performance of its solution.
Hybrid projects which involve hydropower and photovoltaics are becoming more and more attractive for operators of hydropower plants. The combination solves the issue of low water levels, which reduces the production of hydropower plants. Two companies from the region recently announced such projects – Slovenia’s DEM, and BiH’s Hidroelektrane na Vrbasu.