Dams spell catastrophe for Cambodia, but an alternative exists

Published onSeptember 12, 2018

Twelve years ago, a Chinese state-owned company signed an agreement with the government of Cambodia to undertake a monumental feat of engineering: the Sambor Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong Basin. The 2,600MW behemoth, double the size of any other dam planned or constructed on the Lower Mekong, would stretch for 18km, trailing an 82km-long reservoir behind it. The company ultimately dropped the plan in 2011 in the wake of protests from local villagers who didn’t want to see 100km of their river, home to their fisheries and livelihood, disappear. “If the river is blocked by the dam, it will be difficult for us to catch fish,” a resident of Thmey village told the South China Morning Post at the time…

…one innovation involving floating solar photovoltaic panels could be the answer. “We were the first one to launch the market in the world,” said Harold Meurisse, managing director for the Southeast Asia operations of the French company Ciel & Terre, which developed the technology in 2011. “We started with 1.3MW. When we started, people said we were crazy to go on a lake, and we had to convince the full industry to do it. And we see more and more projects of 200MW, 400MW, under development now.” He added: “Solar energy is very cheap now, very cheap, but we use a lot of land to develop solar energy… Like for Myanmar or Cambodia, you need that space for agricultural purposes… [A hydrodam] lake is often never used, or only by very small fish farmers and only on a very small part of the surface. So if you use this space, you pay nothing for the land – and you’ve saved the land as well.” Floating solar panels are exactly what they sound like: solar panels that have been attached to floats on a body of water, like a lake or reservoir.

Source: http://sea-globe.com/an-alternative-to-catastrophic-hydropower-in-cambodia/