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Unique research into floating solar panels has been launched

A consortium led by TNO recently 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. The consortium has selected three companies with promising system designs to help further develop floating solar energy, including in locations with high waves, strong winds and brackish water.

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The research is taking place at the Fieldlab Green Economy Westvoorne of the Oostvoornse Lake near the Maasvlakte. Key research themes are the robustness of the floating systems in the event of waves and strong winds, the energy yield and the effects on underwater life and biodiversity.

Floating solar energy is expected to make an important contribution to the energy transition. In 2050, a two hundred gigawatt-peak (GWp) of generated solar energy is predicted in the Netherlands, 25 GWp of which will be on inland waterways and 45 offshore. However, there is still too little knowledge about the effect of wind and waves on the performance of solar panels or about the ecological effects.

Fieldlab Green Economy Westvoorne


Innovation incentive

From a list of twelve candidates, experts from the consortium have chosen Texel4Trading/SolarFloat (Netherlands), SolarisFloat (Portugal) and Isifloating by Isigenere (Spain) to build the floating systems. Once the three solar systems, of 50 kWp each, have been installed on the Oostvoornse Lake, their electrical performance, mechanical dynamic stability and ecological effects will be tested for a year.

The results are also important for innovative companies in our country that want to further improve their products in the field of solar energy. Water boards, municipalities, provinces, knowledge institutes and nature organisations are also interested in the research results that will help them to develop a vision for future applications of floating solar energy systems.

Panel performance and ecological effects

The Fieldlab on the Oostvoornse Lake offers scope for a variety of research projects on floating solar energy systems. To this end, a research cabin with measuring systems and a reference field on the land is being installed. A little way out from the shore will be a floating jetty with small test fields of solar panels.

In the pilot study maritime research institute MARIN will be looking at the aspects of mechanical dynamics and HZ University of Applied Sciences will study the ecological aspects. The latter is special because it will be one of the first studies to link the performance of floating solar panels to the effects on aquatic life.

Zon op Water (sun on water)

The research facility is an important step in the roadmap drawn up by the National Consortium Zon op Water. The research is being made possible in part by TNO and the Energy & Climate Innovation Programme, an initiative of Metropole Region Rotterdam Den Haag, InnovationQuarter, and the Province of South Holland.

About the project consortium

TNO conducts independent and internationally leading research and stands for an agenda-setting, initiating and supporting role for government, industry and NGOs. TNO's innovation programmes are aligned with the energy agenda and the coalition agreement with the aim of accelerating the energy transition and strengthening the competitive position of Dutch companies.

The municipality of Westvoorne facilitates the Fieldlab Green Economy Westvoorne as a research location for sustainable initiatives at the interface of economics, science, nature and recreation. Themes are Energy & Water and Circular Processes.

SABIC is a global leader in chemicals. Floating solar has an excellent fit with their sustainability strategy, which is a core value. This research project will enable them to learn and create a deep market understanding to optimize their product offering and come with innovative material and application solutions to create value for customers in these challenging markets.

Equinor is a broad energy company with 21,000 employees, and is present in more than 30 countries worldwide. Equinor are developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy. The headquarters are in Stavanger, Norway.

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Dr Jan Kroon

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