Portugal launches auction for 262MW of floating solar

Already featuring a pilot floating PV project, the Alto Rabagão dam (pictured) is now set to host a large-scale floating solar plant. Image: EDP.

Portugal has launched its latest solar auction that is set to allocate 262MW of floating PV to be installed at seven dams across the country.

The Alqueva dam in the southern Algarve region is set to host 100MW of floating solar, the largest project included in the auction, followed by 50MW at the Castelo de Bode dam in the centre of the country. The projects are expected to be operational by 2023.

Prospective bidders are allowed to submit proposals between 29 January and 2 March 2022, with the auction set to take place on 4 April.

“We are certain that this auction will attract enormous interest,” said Portugal’s energy secretary, João Galamba, adding that the country intends to launch a succession of auctions in the future to take advantage of the country’s reservoirs. The minister has previously said floating solar can reduce land availability risks as developers are not tasked with finding suitable sites themselves.

Originally due to take place in September and allocate 500MW of floating solar capacity, the latest auction follows Portugal’s previous two solar auctions, in 2019 and 2020, for ground-mount projects that both closed with record low prices.

Speaking at a presentation this week, Ignacio Cobo, a senior consultant at consultancy firm AFRY, said the auction will provide bidders two ways of participating: a fixed tariff for 15 years, or through a contribution to the system in which the player pays an amount over 15 years in exchange for receiving access to the network.

Previous floating solar deployment in Portugal has seen utility EDP install a 220kWp pilot project at the Alto Rabagão dam, which is now set to host a 42MW plant through the upcoming auction. EDP also started construction last summer of another floating solar plant at the Alqueva dam that the company said could be operational by the end of 2021.

Plans for the auction have previously been welcomed by Portuguese renewable energy association APREN, whose CEO Pedro Amaral Jorge told PV Tech Premium earlier this year that the country’s auctions are beneficial for the solar sector as they attract foreign investors, while also helping the country achieve its decarbonisation goals.

Shuttering its only remaining coal plant – a 628MW power station – last weekend, Portugal has now become the fourth country in the European Union to stop using coal to generate electricity.

With the country aiming to reach 9GW of deployed solar by 2030, its ground-mount utility-scale PV sector is set to be boosted by recent announcements from the likes of Galp and Lightsource bp, which is investing €900 million (US$1.1 billion) to fund the development of solar projects with a combined capacity of 1.35GW.

PV Tech publisher Solar Media’s Large Scale Solar Europe conference returns to Portugal a week before the country’s floating solar auction takes place. Set to be held in Lisbon between 29 – 30 March 2022, the event will feature discussions on all the leading topics impacting European utility-scale solar deployment. For more information on the event, click here.