The study, published in Nature Energy, is among the first to explore the FPV at the continental scale, finding that FPV installed at existing major reservoirs could produce 20-100% of the electricity expected from Africa’s planned hydropower dams. Using a state-of-the-art energy planning model covering the continent’s entire energy system, the researchers found that FPV is cost-competitive with other renewables and thus a key part of Africa’s future energy mix.

The researchers conducted a detailed case study on the transboundary Zambezi watercourse, finding that the capital investment slated for new dam projects could be deployed more efficiently by building fewer reservoirs and supplementing the energy supply with floating solar. Compared to dam-intensive solutions, this approach yielded 12% less interannual variability in electricity supply and proved more robust against potential long-term drought conditions exacerbated by climate change.

The authors emphasize that the work highlights the importance of integrated resource planning and considering transboundary impacts when navigating sustainable development pathways. Traditional energy-water modeling often looks at single sectors like hydropower in isolation. However, this study showcases advanced multisector modeling that can reveal and balance tradeoffs across energy, agriculture, environmental protection, and economic development objectives within transboundary river basins.

Source: Eurek Alert!

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