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The Afobaka Dam in Suriname (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Suriname going big with solar floating photovoltaic energy

The Afobaka Dam in Suriname (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Suriname is going big on solar with plans of developing solar floating photovoltaic (FPV) energy.

Suriname is getting help in its pursuit for FPV energy from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is financially supporting the move in the Dutch-speaking territory. The IDB has agreed to provide Suriname with a Technical Cooperation financed by the Japan Special Funds.

The fa├žade of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, United States. (File photo)

This funding will be used to study the feasibility of integrating FPV in Suriname’s Afobaka hydropower plant, which currently generates about 50 per cent of the total electricity consumed in the country. The electricity supply in Suriname is critical during periods in the dry season, coinciding with the warmer and sunnier periods of the year, where the consumption of air-conditioning in buildings tends to be higher.

This project will help to supply electricity during these peaks and optimise the management of water resources to have reserves at critical moments. The FPV system can be connected to the same transmission line from the hydropower plant, managing solar and hydro generation in an integrated and optimal way for the grid.

The Technical Cooperation, which will be administered by the IDB, will analyse the value chain for the supply, installation, operation and maintenance (O&M) of the project and propose recommendations to increase local content and create new local green jobs. The IDB acknowledges that there remain many open questions regarding proper implementation of the technology.

The Afobaka Dam on the Brokopondo Reservoir in Suriname (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Experts have suggested that additional feasibility studies need to be carried out to protect the local environment while questions linger about the differences in O&M practices compared to traditional ground-mounted PV plants and do they cost more. Other questions arise such as how do tender processes and procurement contracts need to be adapted to the new technology.

FPV energy is gaining relevance around the globe. Recently, plants with a capacity of tens and even hundreds of megawatts have been installed in China, and more are planned in India and Southeast Asia. In 2018, the cumulative installed capacity of floating solar panels was 1,000 megawatt (MW), from which more than 500 MW were installed in the same year. At the end of 2020, the cumulative installed capacity of FPV was estimated at more than 2,500 MW.

FPV systems present certain advantages and benefits over land-based systems. One of the main advantages is that these projects will not compete with other land uses, a relevant aspect especially for small islands developed states and other countries where land availability for power generation is scarce.