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Solar farms with respect for landscape and nature

In ten years’ time, our country is expected to generate five times as much solar energy compared to 2020. Some scenarios assume that the amount will be almost 20 times as much by 2050, requiring a substantial rollout of photovoltaic (PV) modules on land and water. TNO is conducting studies how this can be done while taking into account the landscape, water quality and ecology.

TNO carries out research at the cutting edge of technological and societal issues, with projects on land and floating systems on inland bodies of water and at sea. An important condition is the smooth integration of the future abundance of solar power into the changing energy system. Our researchers work closely with other knowledge institutions such as Wageningen University & Research, Deltares and MARIN and with innovative companies. 

Solar farms

The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country in which we need to be careful with the available space. TNO is therefore working on technological solutions for installing solar panels on land such that they are barely noticeable and take up little space. Thanks in part to TNO’s innovations, solar modules are available in an increasing number of shapes, sizes and colours, making them easy to integrate into the landscape. In many cases, it is possible to combine existing agricultural functions with solar energy generation on agricultural parcels. A good example of multi-purpose land use is vertically installed panels between which arable products grow.

Solar farm De Kwekerij, Hengelo

Eco-positive solar farms

We are working on solar farms which respect the cultural-historical value of the landscape and can be combined with the maintenance, restructuring or establishment of areas with ecological values. Solar energy need not be a burden on nature but can instead contribute to biodiversity. We work with partners to understand and model the relationship between the design parameters of solar farms and the effects on the microclimate, soil and flora and fauna. Solar farms with a proven positive contribution to biodiversity or to soil quality can be called eco-positive solar parks. Circularity also plays a role along with research on ecological aspects: TNO is working on the design of solar farms and the use of materials which are largely or entirely recyclable. The work always includes maximising yields and building a good business case. 

Installation pilot solar farm on water, fieldlab Oostvoornse Meer

Utilising inland bodies of water

In a field lab in a corner of the Oostvoornse lake, TNO and other parties are conducting research on floating solar systems for larger inland bodies of water. This involves a combination of research on the technical performance and yield, the robustness of systems that must be able to withstand wind and waves, the influence on life above and below water, reliability, circularity and economic feasibility.

The step towards the sea

The knowledge acquired on floating systems on larger inland bodies of water also contributes to a longer-term goal: offshore solar farms. The conditions at sea are far more difficult, but the yields are potentially high. When it comes to this research, our country is at the forefront worldwide. One of the projects is Solar@Sea, in which companies and knowledge institutions are building a pilot of lightweight flexible floating structures based on thin-film PV. TNO and the maritime research institute MARIN are also knowledge partners for the ‘Zon op Zee’ (Offshore Solar) project. The company Oceans of Energy has carried out an initial test on the North Sea with a pontoon containing 56 solar panels.

Curious about solar farms on land or water?

Please contact Wiep Folkerts

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An attractive idea is to build floating solar systems between the turbines of offshore wind farms and to strive for synergy in the energy infrastructure. The research focuses on maximising the yield, the robustness of the systems, the reliability and the life cycle of the materials.

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