Solar Power At Sea – Offshore Solar Farm Project Commences

Oceanic solar farms

A really, really, big potential platform for solar panels? | Image : Kantasimo

Installing solar panels on large bodies of water such as lakes and reservoirs is one thing, on the open ocean quite another.

Last week it was announced a consortium of six Dutch companies and research institutes had embarked on the design, construction and operation of the world’s first offshore floating solar farm.

Leading the consortium is Oceans Of Energy, which believes it is the world’s oceans that offer abundant potential for clean energy.

“What we will do in this project has not been done before and is exceptional,” said Allard van Hoeken, Oceans Of Energy founder and CEO. “Solar farms are already being deployed at inshore water bodies such as lakes, but a project at sea has never been done before as this is much more challenging. The destructive wind- and wave forces at sea cause others to withhold.”

What the Netherlands does have is offshore wind turbines, and it appears the consortium want to leverage their existing infrastructure by installing oceanic arrays between them.

“…  by using the space available in-between wind turbines, the energy output of offshore windparks per square kilometer can be multiplied several times.”

Oceans Of Energy is developing what it says is a unique platform for solar panels capable of withstanding rough sea conditions for 20+ years. It’s currently in the patent process, so it’s still all rather hush-hush.

A modest prototype installation of 30 square meters of solar panels will soon be tested offshore and Utrecht University researchers will assist in monitoring its performance. Assuming that works out, a much larger project will be undertaken.

The consortium is receiving financial support through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, which considers the project to have a high potential to be replicated.

Land suitable for large-scale solar farms is in short supply in the Netherlands, but by using the ocean, solar power could become a major contributor to energy supply in the country rather than a bit player.

Currently, the Netherlands relies heavily on fossil fuels for electricity generation. The Dutch central government wants to reduce the Netherlands’ greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 and has set a “sustainable energy target” of 16% by 2023.

By the end of 2016, the Netherlands has an installed solar power capacity of approximately 2,040 megawatts according to EurObserv’ER’s Photovoltaic Barometer 2017. In 2016, the country installed 525MW of PV capacity, ranking it at number four in the European Union.

While on the topic of aquatic solar, Australia’s largest floating solar farm was recently officially opened – a 99kW array consisting of 280 solar panels in Lismore, New South Wales.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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