The authorities in charge of Kariba Dam, the world’s largest man-made lake, are considering using floating solar panels to generate power after plummeting water levels deepened power outages in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to Munyaradzi Munodawafa, chief executive officer of the Zambezi River Authority, adding solar panels capacity to the surface of the Kariba Dam water would supplement the more than 2 100 megawatts of hydropower capacity.
Munodawafa told Bloomberg that a similar proposal is being considered for the nearby Batoka Gorge, where another hydro project is being developed. He said:
There are lots of areas that can provide that solar.
Interest in floating solar panels has increased in recent years, according to the International Energy Agency.
The installations avoid competing for land, boost yields because of the cooling effect of water, and have the potential to reduce the evaporation of water bodies.
Large-scale projects have been planned for reservoirs in India and Singapore.
A prolonged drought has cut output at Kariba and resulted in Zambia and Zimbabwe’s state power utilities being unable to meet electricity demand.
Overuse of the dam compounded the problem at the start of the year, when reservoir levels fell to less than 1% of usable storage.
Although inflows have increased since January, the station is still vulnerable to climate change’s consequences.
Munodawafa claimed that the scarcity of water entering the dam from Zimbabwe’s Gwayi River is evidence that rainfall patterns have grown to be a problem.
He said the Zambian and Zimbabwean utilities have yet to make a decision on the use of the floating solar panels and determine how much such a project would cost.
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