Albania plans first floating solar farm

Solar panels

12.9MWh plant marks an innovative step for Balkan renewables.

The Albanian state energy company, KESH, has announced plans for a floating photovoltaic solar farm to be built on its Vau i Dejës hydropower plant reservoir. The project represents a breakthrough for the region’s renewables diversification, harnessing Albania’s rich solar resources while avoiding the use of scarce land.

Besjan Kadiu, chief executive of KESH, said: “Although modest in size, the project holds opportunities not only for the further development of public generation assets on a strong commercial, technical and environmental basis, but also showcases the know-how that is required to operate a hybrid hydro-photovoltaic system.”

KESH owns and operates three large hydropower plants with a total capacity of 1,350MWh – almost three quarters of Albania’s domestic electricity generation. The company is keen to show that a hybrid system can help the country modernise its energy supply and potentially help meet global climate change objectives.

The positioning of solar capacity on hydropower reservoirs enables the new capacity to piggyback on the large transmission infrastructure already in place. It is also hoped that new solar capacity will contribute to making KESH more resilient to climate-induced and seasonal risks and that, if successful, the project might be replicated across the wider Balkans region with its strong hydropower legacy.

The project is being supported by a €9.1m loan provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The loan is being provided on a commercial basis and is the first such financing provided to KESH by an international financial institution as part of plans to commercialise operations at what is presently one of Albania’s biggest state-owned utilities.

The project also aligns with Albania’s broader ambition to develop a much larger solar capacity, with projects that include the 140MWh farm in Karavasta and a 100 MWh project at Spitalle.

Francesco Corbo, EBRD regional head of energy for the West Balkans, said: “We are delighted to support this ground-breaking project, which is another major step in Albania’s successful drive to boost solar capacity and improve its energy mix. The project is remarkable because of its innovative technology, positive environmental impact and commercial logic. It also has the potential to be replicated in the broader Western Balkans region, which has many hydropower reservoirs. This is our first opportunity to finance floating solar PV technology and we look forward to many similar projects in the future.”