Marine Floating Solar PV Power Plant

The Seychelles Energy Commission on behalf of the Government of Seychelles has been developing and de-risking a marine floating solar PV (FPV) power plant. Though FPV has been deployed at scale for years, these installations are located in freshwater environments such as lakes or reservoirs. With support from the Clinton Foundation, the African Legal Support Forum, as well as legal and technical advisers from Trinity International LLP and Multiconsult Norge AS, the project will be Africa’s first utility-scale FPV plant in a marine environment and aims to support the country’s transition to renewable energy. The project site is located in a saltwater lagoon on the main island of Mahe, and therefore must be designed to cope with salinity, tidal fluctuations, and an ocean environment. The floating solar power plant is estimated to have a capacity between 3.5 – 4 MW and to provide cleaner, more sustainable energy at a lower cost.


The Problem

Many island territories around the world still rely heavily on fossil fuels as their primary source of energy, despite high potential for renewable energy generation. One of the obstacles is land space. Many islands have competing uses for land – from residential development to agriculture to tourism to conservation – but massive ocean territories. The Seychelles – like many islands – has excellent solar PV potential but also has limited land availability for ground-mounted solar. To be able to capitalize on this potential for renewable solar energy and reduce dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuels, makes the case for a solution that considers land constraints.


The Solution

Marine Floating Solar PV Plant (FPV) solves the double challenge of land constraints and clean energy generation. Floating solar PV panels are suspended in marine ecosystems with careful consideration of environmental impact. By utilizing marine FPV, islands and other land-constrained economies can maximize their solar PV potential and rely on clean, renewable energy sources rather than imported fossil fuels.


How it Works

Marine floating solar, also known as floating photovoltaic (FPV) works as any other solar panel system works, but floats on top of a body of water. In the Seychelles case, these panels will float atop a body of water in a saltwater lagoon, where waters are relatively calm and sheltered. Solar panels are affixed to a buoyant structure that keeps them afloat. One issue solar panels have in hot climates is that they can actually become overheated reducing their capacity to generate power efficiently. The waters that host FPV systems help cool down the solar equipment, producing electricity at higher efficiencies. Special considerations, such a salinity, are considered when designing the materials to ensure corrosion is avoided and/or controlled.


Goals

  • Maximize solar PV potential in Seychelles for cleaner, more sustainable energy.
  • Reduce dependence on fossil fuel-based sources of energy and reduce energy costs simultaneously.
  • Support Seychelles’ transition to renewable energy while supporting economic development and job creation in the renewable energy sector.
  • Offer research and teaching opportunities with local and international universities.

Impact to Date

The project is currently wrapping up the procurement phase, with the project award expected to be issued to the IPP in late 2019. Construction is expected to start in mid-2020, with operation later that year. Because the power plant is not yet operating, many of the impacts cannot yet be quantified. Nevertheless, the following results are expected:

  • To deliver electricity to the national grid at a rate significantly lower than the marginal cost of fuel (imported oil), and therefore provide significant economic and fuel savings to the country.
  • Rather than burning costly, polluting diesel for electricity generation, the power plant will provide clean, sustainable power.

Expected benefits include:

  • Higher yield from the PV plant because of the cooling effect on panels over water.
  • Job opportunities/creation for locals.
  • Exposure of the Seychelles to the world in regards to marine FPV.
  • Research and teaching opportunities with local university as well as foreign ones.

Challenges

  • Many of the challenges for a project like this are technical: the system must be designed with high salinity levels in mind, minimizing environmental impact, and coping with new technical risks such as tidal fluctuations and anchoring in a marine environment. Seychelles is fortunate not to be located in the cyclone belt, but other islands that are more at risk for extreme weather events would need to add further resilience design considerations.
  • The project is the Seychelles’ first Independent Power Producer, meaning that the government has been working hard to develop the right framework and contractual documents to ensure the project’s success.

Next Steps

  • Concluding procurement and issuing the notice of intended award in 2019. Soon thereafter, the government and the IPP will sign the key transaction documents and the IPP will proceed with construction. By the end of 2020 the project is expected to be delivering power to the grid.
  • Seychelles is interested in replicating this innovation on other lagoons that have space for PV arrays. Based on the success of this project, knowledge can be leveraged and experience can be gained to scale the technology.
  • Looking forward to and hoping to see more island communities implement marine FPV and see an advancement in the market in this direction

For More Information

Visit https://www.islandinnovation.co/resources/making-floating-solar-a-reality-the-seychelles-case-study/

This information was based on an interview conducted with Fiona Wilson of the Clinton Foundation and Tony Imaduwa, CEO of the Seychelles Energy Commission.


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