Floating solar panels

Floating solar

Floating solar will make a significant contribution to the energy transition. In 2050, 200 gigawatt peak (GWp) of solar power is expected to be generated in the Netherlands, 25 GWp of which will be on inland waters and 45 at sea. Knowledge is lacking, for example, on the effect of wind and waves on solar panels. That's why we are doing plenty of research.

Floating solar panels on inland waters

A consortium under our leadership has started a research project on floating solar energy systems. Partners include petrochemical company SABIC, Norwegian energy company Equinor, and the municipality of Westvoorne. Three promising system designs have been installed and we are monitoring them for a year. This research contributes to the further development of floating solar energy, including in locations with high waves, high winds, and brackish water. The research is taking place at the Fieldlab Green Economy Westvoorne in the Oostvoornse Meer near the Maasvlakte.

Texel4Trading/SolarFloat (Netherlands), SolarisFloat (Portugal), and Isifloating by Isigenere (Spain) have built three floating solar systems of 50 kWp each. We are testing these for one year for electrical performance, mechanical dynamic stability, and ecological effects.

Among other things, the results are important for innovative companies in our country to further improve their solar energy products. Water boards, municipalities, provinces, knowledge institutions, and nature organisations are also interested in the research results, which will help them envision future applications of floating solar power systems.

The Fieldlab located on the shores of the Oostvoornse Meer offers space for a variety of research projects on floating solar energy systems. Among other things, a research cabin with measurement systems and a reference field were installed on land. Slightly off the shore is a floating jetty with the three test fields of solar panels.

Key research topics include the robustness of the floating systems in wave action and high winds, energy output, and the effects on underwater life and biodiversity. Maritime research institute MARIN is researching the aspects of mechanical dynamics and HZ University of Applied Sciences is responsible for the ecological aspects.

The research facility represents an important step in the roadmap drawn up by the National Consortium Solar on Water. The research is made possible in part by TNO and the Energy & Climate Innovation Programme, an initiative of the Rotterdam-The Hague Metropolitan Area, InnovationQuarter, and the Province of South Holland.

Wave Category 2

In 2017, together with partners from the National Consortium Solar on Water, we conducted a study on the feasibility of solar energy systems on water surfaces with wave category 2. This research took place at the Slufter on the Maasvlakte. The project provided a comprehensive inventory of challenges and potential failure mechanisms in these types of systems.

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

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

Floating solar panels
Test module with floating solar panels from [email protected]

Offshore floating solar panels

In the North Sea, a large area has been earmarked for offshore renewable energy. Initially for wind energy, but there is enough space in between the wind turbines to generate solar energy as well. We are collaborating on several projects focused on how to achieve robust offshore floating solar energy systems with high yields and long service lives at acceptable costs.

This research fits within our activities to utilise as much existing surface as possible for solar energy generation. Offshore floating solar panels always involve a good balance between maximum yield and integration into the environment, both on land and on water. We contribute to these projects from various areas of expertise and labs. Examples include solar energy components (modules and electronics) and complete systems, as well as new measurement methods to examine systems and components.

The first floating pontoons from the Oceans of Energy company have now endured storms and high waves at a test site off the coast of Zeeland. A first step in demonstrating that offshore solar farms continue to function under severe weather conditions.

Within this project, we are researching the design options and yields of the solar energy system. Maritime research institute MARIN is conducting research into robustness in high waves, initially using scale models in a test basin.

Oceans of Energy will also build 1 megawatt (MW) of offshore solar off the coast of Scheveningen. We'll be researching the suitability of solar panels for offshore use, and are investigating integration at wind farms.

Together with other parties, we are researching a concept based on a flexible structure within the [email protected] project. The basic idea here is to make the structure move optimally with the waves and to apply flexible solar panels. In this way, we hope to arrive at an alternative solution that can withstand the forces of nature and achieves a high yield. Initial trials of this concept on inland waters were promising.

The CrossWind consortium, a joint venture of Shell in the Netherlands and Eneco, will build the new offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust (Noord). Together with CrossWind, we are working on research and a demonstration of solar energy at sea at this new offshore wind farm. The Hollandse Kust (Noord) offshore wind farm is expected to be operational in 2023. The offshore solar demonstration at this site will be 0.5 MWp in size and is planned for 2025.

Webinar: Potential & Challenges for Offshore Solar

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