Solar panels try to undo Balbina dam's damage

Two decades after Balbina dam's floods, Brazil's Sunlition plans to boost energy generation in the region through 50,000 square meters of floating solar panels. The project is expected to be finished in 2017 and provide energy for 540,00 homes.

Balbina dam, located about 200 km north of Manaus in Brazil, is know part of a pilot project for producing solar energy. It is expected to have a solar panels' platform of 50,000 square meters by April 2017.

The region suffered from mayor floods, caused by the dam's construction, two decades ago with over 2,400 square km of rainforest affected. Its construction was ordered during Brazil's 1964-1985 military regime. It was considered as an engineering environmental crime.

The hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 1989, currently produces only 1/5 of its 250 megawatts at full production but with the use of panels, production is expected to reach 300MW and provide electricity for 540,000 homes.

This project is being developed by Brazilian Sunlution in partnership with French firm Ciel et Terre.

In its inauguration ceremony Energy and Mining minister, Eduardo Braga said: "How can we mitigate the cost of this crime? By improving the cost-benefit relationship of this power station."

The hybrid system will use the existing and underutilized power transmission infrastructure and the water surface to avoid the need of buying new land.

Orestes Gocalvez Junior, Sunlution's president  said "We're going to transform the hydroelectric power generators, that have limitations due to the weather, into unlimited power producers because they will also use solar energy,".

Engineers will measure the efficiency of this model in two locations: Babina, where the weather due to the rainforest is hot and humid and in the semi-arid hills of northeastern state of Bahia. If successful officials hope to expand the floating panel system.

Globally this method is being implemented in Japan and Australia to produce over 355MW altogether.

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