Hybrid power generation for increasing water and energy securities during drought : Exploring local and regional effects in a semi-arid basin

Ferraz de Campos, Érica; Pereira, Enio Bueno; Oel, Pieter van; Martins, Fernando Ramos; Gonçalves, André Rodrigues; Costa, Rodrigo Santos


Reservoirs of hydropower plants (HPP) can amend water, energy, and food security in semi-arid regions. However, during severe droughts, the priority of energy demand leads to critical conditions of water availability. To reduce water use for energy, one possible measure is the adoption of solar power, an abundant energy source in semi-arid regions. This study assessed the influence of adding floating photovoltaic power (PV) in the large-scale reservoir of Sobradinho HPP, located in the São Francisco River (SFR), in Brazil, from 2009 to 2018. The simulated scenarios varied the installed PV power capacity from 50 to 1000 MW. For each scenario, water allocation was modified based on the solar-hydro equivalence that restrained the historical outflow of Sobradinho to maintain water in the reservoir. Besides, a diverse operation rule for the reservoirs in cascade of SFR was adopted to avoid ecological impacts of low streamflow. The scenarios were assessed in water security, solar-hydro electricity output, capacity factor of the powerplant, water and energy losses by evaporation and spilled water. Results show that a PV system starting from 250 MW was necessary to improve water security during the severe drought, reserving 0.7–2.3 of the annual water demand. In addition, the capacity factor was optimized from 29% to 34–47%. However, as the HPPs installed at SFR work as one system, the constrain of the river flow reduced the hydroelectricity by 4.4% for 750 MW. We concluded that PV significantly influenced water security and ecological conditions of SFR, with benefits in the range of 250–750 MW. The research provides assessment on substituting hydro for solar power on the operation of reservoirs in cascade and identifies the correlated benefits in social and ecological aspects. This information can support decisions of water and energy supply system operators and public policies focused on integrated resources management in semi-arid regions.