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  • The floating solar photovoltaic panels, installed in the Balbina Lake reservoir in the Amazon, was created when the Balbina hydroelectric dam and power station was built in 1989.

    The floating solar photovoltaic panels, installed in the Balbina Lake reservoir in the Amazon, was created when the Balbina hydroelectric dam and power station was built in 1989. | Photo: AFP

Brazil will try to flip a past environmental disaster, caused by a hydroelectric dam project, into a positive source of solar energy.

Engineers in Brazil have developed a system of floating solar panels for a part of the Amazon that was flooded and destroyed by a hydroelectric dam project in the 1980s. 

The solar panels are an attempt to transform the artificial lake into a sustainable project after the Balbina dam flooded the region in 1989, in what has been considered an “environmental crime.” 

The construction of the dam inundated some 2,400 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest at a high cost, which in the end had very little electricity generation capacity.

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“It is one of the largest environmental crimes that engineering has committed in this country. How do we mitigate the cost of this crime? To improve the cost-benefit relationship of this plant,” said Minister of Mines and Energy of Brazil Eduardo Braga. 

Braga's comments come as the minister inaugurated the first floating solar panel that will generate power by harnessing sunshine, which at this point in the jungle is abundant. The artificial lake lies in a clearing near the Ecuadorean border some 200 kilometers from the city of Manaus. 

The panels are an initiative by the Brazilian government, which aims to install 50,000 square meters of panel by 2017. This area in equivalent to five football fields, would generate up to 5 megawatts of power able to supply power to up to 9,000 homes. 

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At some point in the future, the project's capacity could be expanded to create 300 megawatts of energy, which could power up to 540,000 homes, said the Brazilian government.   

Floating solar panels are not a new engineering feet, but it is the first time the panels will be installed in the reservoir of a hydroelectric dam, according to AFP.

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