South America's largest floating solar project has been launched at Colombia's Urrá Dam, aiming to showcase the potential of pairing floating solar with hydroelectric operations to enhance energy reliability and production. 

The project, developed by Noria Energy, encompasses a 1.5MW solar power system floating on the reservoir. Noria Energy, known for their expertise in floating solar, has previously developed a 4.78 MW floating solar system in North America that supplies 8% of Healdsburg, California's electricity needs.

The initiative highlights the opportunity to maximize zero-emission energy generation and diversify clean energy sources by combining floating solar with hydroelectric power, which currently contributes around 60% of the world's renewable energy. Not only does the addition of floating solar increase the total generating capacity of hydroelectric dams, but it also helps ensure continuous power supply during periods of low water levels or other unfavorable conditions that might reduce hydroelectric output. The floating solar system is designed to withstand water-level fluctuations of up to 120ft and sits on top of the water, mitigating any conflicts with land use.

The collaboration between Noria Energy and partners 1Solution, DISICO S.A, G&C, Isigenere, and Seaflex led to the design, development, and installation of the floating photovoltaic system at Urrá Dam as a pilot project for URRÁ S.A. E.S.P., an independent power producer. 

“URRÁ seeks to incorporate innovation and sustainable development in all its operations. We are very proud that Aquasol is the largest floating photovoltaic plant built at a reservoir of a hydroelectric power plant in South America to date,” said Rafael Amaya del Vecchio, president of URRÁ S. A. E.S.P. “URRÁ thanks Noria for leading the design of the photovoltaic system and the other companies of the Aquasol consortium for helping us make this project a reality.”

The Aquasol pilot installation is situated at the 340 MW Urrá hydropower plant in the Sinú River basin in Córdoba. Comprising over 2800 solar modules, it is anticipated to generate nearly 2,400 MWh of power in its first year, equivalent to the energy required to operate the dam. Additionally, Aquasol is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 1,540 tons annually and generate over $1.2 million in additional electric power revenue over a span of 20 years.

“Our technology demonstrates that we can expand solar’s reach and reimagine its power to address critical energy needs. I’m thrilled that my home country is hosting this innovative project,” said Colombia native Jairo Criollo, Noria’s co-founder and head of business development.

Noria Energy plans to leverage the data collected from the Aquasol pilot project to compare its production and efficiency against a ground-mounted solar system installed on the shore. Furthermore, the insights gained will assist in designing and modeling larger-scale floating solar and hydroelectric systems to maximize their generation potential, both in Colombia and globally.