Solar panels floating on the lakes formed by Africa’s hydropower dams could be a major new source of power, according to a new study

Carbon Brief

In a new paper published in Renewable Energy, researchers lay out the possibility of using floating solar panels installed on lakes to boost the generating capacity of existing dams.

If these panels covered just 1% of reservoirs, this alone could double African hydropower capacity and increase electricity generation from dams by 50%.

Hydro dams are the largest renewable power source in a continent where millions of people still lack access to electricity. However, their future potential could be hampered by climate change. But, with rising global temperatures leading to disrupted rainfall and droughts, existing African facilities are expected to generate less power in the future. On top of this, the dams that have been built have often been linked to social, environmental and political problems.

The new paper proposes floating solar panels as a solution that boosts hydropower capacity using Africa’s “vast solar resources”. Panels can be mounted on floating structures and plugged into existing electricity infrastructure.

Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based thinktank Power Shift Africa, tells Carbon Brief that diversifying the continent’s energy portfolio with technologies such as floating solar could reduce “outages and overreliance” on hydropower.

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