Today, in Brussels, Alqueva Floating Solar Farm was awarded the European Sustainable Energy Award 2023 in the Innovation category. The award recognises outstanding ongoing or recently completed EU-funded projects that show an original and innovative path toward the clean energy transition. European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson congratulated the three award winners at the Awards Ceremony on first day of the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), the biggest annual event dedicated to renewables and energy efficiency in Europe.
‘We need all the renewable technologies to come together and deliver the energy transition in Europe,’ explains Joana Freitas, Board Member of EDP Generation.
This principle of combining different forms of renewable energy in one project underpins the 5MW Alqueva Floating Solar Farm, where 12 000 solar panels float on 4 hectares of an existing hydropower reservoir in central Portugal. The park, whose elastic mooring system was developed as part of the EU-funded Fresher project (European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund), supplies enough energy to power 30% of the energy usage of households in the region.
‘We are seeing here a mix of several layers of innovation,’ says Miguel Patena, Innovation Manager at EDP, who describes how ‘the cooling effect of the water increases the efficiency of the solar panels.’ In addition, the panels protect the water from solar radiation, reducing algae formation, giving fish a place to shelter from the heat, and limiting water evaporation, all of which are key in the region where the effects of climate change are already being felt and ‘water management is a very central part of life’.
The solar park uses the same connection point to the grid as an existing hydropower plant which was built 20 years ago and employs battery storage to boost the resilience of energy supply. This hybrid approach increases the efficiency of projects by allowing them to share infrastructure such as power lines and substations, as well as stabilising costs and reducing environmental impact. ‘Together, these different technologies complement each other to deliver clean, reliable, and affordable energy,’ Joana notes.
Preserving the ecosystem while delivering on the social aspects of sustainability is at the heart of the solar project. As Joana states, ‘on one hand we are adding renewable capacity, on the other hand, we believe that this is a highly positive project in terms of nature.’ Installing the solar park on the reservoir, where it covers a small fraction of the water’s surface, avoids using land that could otherwise be used for other purposes, such as agriculture, livestock, and tourism. There is also a minimal visual impact: ‘you don’t see the platform until you are very close to it.’
By scaling up the solutions there, it demonstrates the wider potential to replicate its positive outcomes more widely. An additional 70MW are planned on the Alqueva’s reservoir following Portugal’s first floating solar auction, and awareness is already being built around Europe of the potential for this kind of technology thanks to the park.
The Alqueva Floating Solar Farm was one of three finalists shortlisted for the European Sustainable Energy Awards 2023 in the Innovation category. The other finalists in this category were TrAM (Transport: Advanced and Modular) in Norway and the pan-European project STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty).
About the European Sustainable Energy Awards
The European Sustainable Energy Awards recognise outstanding individuals and projects for their innovation and efforts in energy efficiency and renewables. Finalists were selected by a high-level jury and the winners were decided by an online public vote, with more than 11,000 people joining in. Prizes were awarded in three categories - Innovation, Local Energy Action, and Woman in Energy.
The European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) brings thousands of sustainability stakeholders together to explore policy topics related to protecting European consumers from price volatility and sharpening their skills to produce and save energy within the current energy context. There is still time to attend EUSEW 2023. Media and participants can access the event online until 22 June.
For interview requests with the EUSEW Awards finalists or additional media information, please contact [email protected]