Floating solar PV

Floating PV systems in the mitigation of hydrological risks in Cameroon

Climate change and the growing energy demand call for comprehensive sustainable solutions

AFRY's forward-looking and innovative approach to hydrological risk mitigation is pivotal in securing Cameroon's sustainable energy future. Our solution aims at stabilising national energy production by unlocking the untapped photovoltaic potential on hydropower reservoirs, while promoting socio-environmental harmony.

Low angle view of pv solar panels on a reservoir

Cameroon has long relied on hydropower as the backbone of its electricity production, a trend likely to continue well into the future. However, this dependency brings about a unique set of challenges, particularly the financial risk associated with hydropower generation costs and revenues. With growing electricity demand and the looming impacts of climate change, these risks are poised to escalate.

AFRY has undertaken a comprehensive study, funded by the International Development Association, to explore sustainable solutions for mitigating hydrological risks. This initiative forms one of the six components under the Technical Assistance Project for the Development of Hydroelectricity on the Sanaga River.

AFRY’s approach and solution

Technical evaluation

AFRY performed an in-depth study focused on leveraging floating photovoltaic (FPV) installations on existing and planned hydropower reservoirs as a mitigation measure. We provided a conceptual study and started defining a FPV unit and applying it to potential sites. Using PVSyst software, we estimated the power potential for each site based on the available water surface and local irradiation conditions. However, considering technical, social, and environmental limitations, we strategically proposed two scenarios with an upper limit for feasible capacity for the sites with the biggest potential.

Integration into financial model

In the subsequent phase, the study incorporated the FPV capacities into a financial energy model tailored for Cameroon’s future energy system, projected for 2035. This model simulated the integration of FPVs with hydropower and other energy sources to evaluate their overall risk mitigation potential. With theoretical potentials exceeding 2000 kWh/m² at selected sites and a maximum capacity of up to 100 MW each, the Pont Rail, Mbakaou and Lagdo reservoirs have been identified as the most attractive locations for FPV development.

Results and added value

Our findings demonstrated that additional energy projects, including the installation of floating PV power plants, will not offset the investment costs when considering the development plan for 2035. However, despite not directly reducing the hydrological risk, the study showed that installing FPV on reservoirs offers a wealth of non-tangible benefits that align with Cameroon's broader energy, environmental, and social objectives:

  • Short-term energy solution: FPVs offer a rapid deployment alternative to the lengthy construction times of traditional large-scale hydroelectric plants. This aligns perfectly with Cameroon's immediate need to bridge the current power capacity deficit.
  • Economic viability: While the long-term economic benefits within the 2035 development plan may be limited, the potential for FPVs to provide interim support and replace thermal power plants in operation cannot be overlooked. As a sustainable and green alternative, this technology opens the doors to international funding opportunities.
  • Environmental benefits: FPVs stand out as a green, sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and supports global climate goals.
  • Social impact: Beyond mere energy production, the implementation of FPVs contributes to local electrification efforts, enhancing the reliability of electricity supply for communities across Cameroon.

This study is a good example of optmising the use of energy sources and the valuable combination of hydro power and photovoltaic. AFRY's comprehensive analysis and modelling reveal that by leveraging floating solar PV technology, the Government of Cameroon can make a substantial advance towards achieving a sustainable and diversified energy future for the nation.

Aerial view of PV solar panels on a reservoir with dam in foreground

Combining the power of hydro and photovoltaic

Read the paper for detailed information on AFRY's evaluation and technical consultancy services for mitigating hydrologic risk in Cameroon.