ENERGY GLOBE
Maldives

WINNER:
Swimsol GmbH

With the Project:
"SolarSea" floating PV system at the LUX* South Ari Atoll luxury resort

Swimsol developed the world’s first floating solar system for marine environments. The objective of this specific project is the installation of a combined floating (191 kWp) and rooftop solar system (487 kWp) at an island hotel resort in the Maldives, in order to reduce the dependence of diesel fuel as the only other available energy source. With this solar system, the hotel resort can substitute around 924 MWh of electrical energy from fossil fuels with clean photovoltaic energy per year, reducing their CO2 emission by 647 tons. At the same time, the local team can extend their skills in the implementation of renewable energy systems, and generally raise awareness towards renewable energies and the environment.

INITIAL SITUATION

In tropical island regions such as the Maldives, electricity is predominantly produced with diesel generators. This method of power production is expensive, unsustainable, and a logistical burden. In addition, oil price volatility creates economic uncertainty. At the same time, the photovoltaic potential is huge. Solar electricity is also considerably cheaper than diesel power. However, solar panels require a lot of space, and the inherent land scarcity prevents large-scale solar installations on most islands. Therefore, with conventional solar technology, markets such as the Maldives are not of interest to international solar companies, as the photovoltaic potential on land rarely reaches the MW range. Typical island resorts in the Maldives burn 2-3 million liters of diesel annually for power production.

SOLUTION

In order to unleash the full solar power potential in regions with high solar output and limited space, SolarSea was developed, the first and only floating solar system for sheltered areas at sea. In a first stage, Swimsol installed a rooftop solar system at the LUX* South Ari hotel resort in 2018 with a capacity of 400 kWp. Due to the very positive effect on the daily diesel consumption, the client requested first an extension of the solar system by another 90 kWp in order to cover all remaining available roof areas. In a next stage in Summer 2019, the first commercial floating solar system was installed at sea, with a capacity of almost 200 kWp. With this combined rooftop and floating solar system, the hotel resort is able to cover 30% of their daily energy requirements during daytime with clean, renewable power.

INNOVATION

The Maldives and other tropical island regions have little to no access to a central, national power grid, making diesel generators often the only solution for reliable electricity generation. In contrast to inland lakes or water reservoirs, where floating solar systems are developing very fast, marine conditions require much more robust solutions, e.g. due to seawater corrosion and waves, while at the same time, they have to be commercial attractive. Together with the Technical University of Vienna and the German Fraunhofer Institute, Swimsol developed the first marine floating solar system, suitable for up to 2 m waves in the current design iteration. Further variations to withstand up to 4 m waves are in development. Since the concept of solar energy is not yet common or widely accepted as reliable energy source especially in this region, a focus of this project was also on capacity building and training the Maldivian staff.

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