Floating solar is a relatively new form of large-scale solar power generation. The main motivation for this application is the scarcity of suitable and available land for solar parks. The aim of the National Consortium Zon op Water (Solar on Water) is to promote cooperation between knowledge institutes, companies and governmental bodies in the field of floating solar energy systems.  
Floating solar on the Slufter-Maasvlakte, floating solar park Lingewaard

Water areas such as irrigation basins, dredging depots, sand extraction locations and basins near water treatment plants can already be used as locations for generating solar energy.  As a next step, we are looking at options and implementation forms for solar energy on larger inland waters. On the IJsselmeer lake this may be possible in the form of floating solar parks within an artificial ring-shaped island (atoll). In the longer term solar parks at sea will also become technically and economically feasible, for example in combination with offshore wind farms.

BENEFITS OF FLOATING SOLAR PARKS

The potential benefits of floating solar parks are:

  • Floating solar can contribute to a better integration of solar energy into the energy system. Examples are the combination with wind energy and the use on hydro-energy reservoirs. Furthermore, high population density areas often are near water, and so that is where the high energy demand is.
  • Floating solar can often be done on a larger scale than regular land based solar parks. This brings a potential cost advantage.
  • In general, floating solar projects will encounter less resistance from society. Certainly in cases where the construction of a floating solar park does not conflict with other functions of the targeted water area.
  • Floating solar may provide a higher electricity yield. Aspects that play a role here are: natural cooling of the panels and higher irradiation above water compared to above land.
  • Occasionally, floating solar parks can function as a useful cover for the water surface. This is when this cover has added value by preventing pollution or evaporation of the water, such as in the case of a drinking water reservoir. 

FLOATING SOLAR PARKS AT WIND FARMS

Floating solar projects will often be carried out near wind energy sites. Since solar energy and wind energy are highly complementary over time, this can provide an efficiency benefit in terms of investment in the electrical infrastructure.

The main challenges for floating solar are:

  • Wave and wind resistance of the floating solar parks. This relates to the design of the system itself and the method of anchoring.
  • Relationship between design,logistics and maintenance. How can the system be designed in such a way that rapid construction of the floating solar park on site is possible? How do we find the right balance between the off-site production of system components, transport costs and on-site construction? How can maintenance work be minimised through optimal design?
  • Lifetime and reliability of the system and its components in humid and corrosive conditions.
  • Design aspects relating to revenues and costs. These include optimisation of the cooling effect, possible application of sun-tracking or bifacial, choice of tilt angle in relation to wind load and irradiation optimisation and minimizing the wave induced mismatch losses. 

The National Consortium Zon op Water is a Dutch consortium that aims to promote cooperation and the exchange of knowledge in the field of floating solar parks.

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