BayWa r.e.’s subsidiary ECOwind has put into operation the fourth-largest floating solar power plant in Europe. The facility with a peak capacity of 24.5 MW is in Grafenwörth in Lower Austria.
The floating photovoltaic system in Grafenwörth was set up on a total of 14 hectares on two adjacent artificial lakes – North Pond and South Pond, located on former sand and gravel pits. Annual output is estimated at 26.7 GWh, equivalent to the electricity needs of 7,500 households in the region. BayWa r.e. executed the project through its Austrian subsidiary ECOwind, with energy supplier EVN.
“The floating-PV solar application means that we can make good use of otherwise underutilised expanses of water. In an environment where there is limited available space, such systems are an extremely valuable supplement to more traditional solar installations on roofs or on land,” ECOwind’s Managing Director Johann Janker said.
The process has seen a rapid acceleration in the latest project as the 45,304 solar modules were installed in only ten weeks, Germany-based BayWa r.e. said. They cover 42% of the water surface. The facility is the biggest in Central Europe, the announcement adds.
“The main challenges of this project were gaining approval for the installation of a new PV technology in Austria and the local conditions on the construction site with a seven-meter difference in level between the installation area and the water,” ECOwind’s Project Manager Benedikt Kammerstätter pointed out. The company has assembled the facility from 2,844 floating units and moved them in arrays down the ramps and onto the lake.
To ensure the project’s integration into the surrounding ecosystem, research on the fish population as well as examinations of the local dragonfly fauna will be carried out regularly over several years.
Including Grafenwörth, BayWa r.e. said it has completed a total of 15 floating photovoltaic projects with an overall 230 MW in capacity throughout the world. The technology is also known as floatovoltaics.
Europe’s three biggest floating solar power plants are in Netherlands
With its Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven, in the last couple of years BayWa r.e. commissioned what it says are the three largest floating photovoltaic facilities outside of Asia. The Sellingen park, with a 41.1 MW peak, and the Uivermeertjes unit, with 29.8 MW, together generate enough electricity for over 20,000 households. The third-biggest one is Bomhofsplas, also in the Netherlands. Its nameplate capacity id 27.4 MW.
All three floaters are located on former sand pits. They were placed where the lake water under them is the deepest to avoid impacting biodiversity.
The advantage of floating photovoltaic parks is that they don’t take up land, while they also prevent water evaporation. A recent study in Brazil showed that they can reduce evaporation by up to 60%.