Floating solar is expected to make a considerable contribution to the energy transition. Some scenarios predict solar energy capacity of two hundred gigawatt-peak (GWp) in the Netherlands in 2050, 25 GWp of which will be on inland water. Therefore TNO wants to build up knowledge about the effect of wind and waves on the durability and performance of floating solar energy installations, as well as the ecological effects. TNO is investigating these issues at different locations and in various projects.

Performance of floating solar panels and ecological effects

TNO has a field lab on the Oostvoornse lake for innovation projects on floating solar energy systems. This is a location with wave category 2: this means that waves up to 1 metre high can occur. Three floating PV islands of about 50 kWp are located on the field lab that is also equipped with a multitude of measuring equipment, a grid connection, a floating walkway and a reference PV system on land.

In 2020, a consortium led by TNO started a research project for floating solar energy systems. Partners are the petrochemical company SABIC, the Norwegian energy company Equinor and the municipality of Westvoorne. In this pilot, three promising systems have been constructed that can contribute to the further development of floating solar energy, for locations with high waves, strong winds and brackish water.

Maritime research institute MARIN is researching the mechanical dynamics and HZ University of Applied Sciences the ecological aspects. This makes it one of the first studies into the performance of floating solar panels linked to the effects on aquatic life.

This video shows the realisation of the FieldLab Green Economy Westvoorne.

Wave category 2

Floating solar panels at De Slufter

As early as 2017 TNO, together with partners of the National Consortium Zon op Water (Solar on Water), conducted a study into the feasibility of solar energy systems on an area of water with wave category 2. This study took place at De Slufter on the Maasvlakte. This project resulted in an extensive inventory of observed failure modes and research challenges.

The next step is the potential use of the IJsselmeer for solar energy. For the IJsselmeer there is also a substantial task in terms of nature development. The question is whether the development of new nature in the IJsselmeer region and the development of solar energy can go hand in hand. Do we see opportunities for synergy on a spatial, policy and/or financial level?

One interesting line of thought is the construction of ring-shaped islands in the IJsselmeer, so-called atolls. This will create a tepid area suitable for floating solar energy systems that can withstand wave category 2 conditions. This approach can go hand in hand with the necessary nature development (Natura 2000).

More info about floating solar panels on large inland waterways?

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Dr Jan Kroon

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