There’s something that’s just simply fun about the idea (and look) of floating solar power plants. We’ve been covering these for several years, long before large ones were being built, so it’s uplifting to see that they’re getting bigger and bigger.
The largest floating solar power park outside of China was recently completed in the Netherlands by BayWa r.e.’s Dutch subsidiary GroenLeven. It is expected to provide energy for 7,200 homes. And it was built in just 7 weeks.
More than 18 hectares in size, the solar power plant, Zonnepark Bomhofsplas, has 72,000 solar panels. A consortium of Energiefonds Overijssel, Blauwvinger Energie, and a private investor will buy the solar farm.
“Zonnepark Bomhofsplas is located on a sand extraction lake of Dekker north of Zwolle. A unique feature of the park is that the electricity generated is offered directly to Zwolle households and companies via local cooperative Blauwvinger Energie, in collaboration with Greenchoice.”
Other people or companies interested in investing in the project will soon be able to buy shares or participate in bonds, too.
“It is great that we are handing over the largest floating solar park in Europe to the local community,” GroenLeven CFO Siebren Zijlstra says. “This solar park is the realization of the Climate Agreement. On the one hand, the double function that is applied by combining industrial water with solar panels with attention to ecology and, on the other hand, local ownership. This fits in perfectly with the philosophy of GroenLeven. I am therefore very proud of this step. The solar park is now both the largest and the most local floating solar park in Europe.”
Interestingly, the developers and investors were also quite conscious of being ecologically sensitive. It uses glass-glass solar panels so that light can get through to the water, and there are sizable gaps between the panels. The panels are far enough off the water to allow good airflow.
“The inverters and the transformer houses float, this ensures that only one cable goes ashore, so that the impact of the solar park on the flora and fauna in the banks is minimal. In total, only 30% of the surface of the pool is covered with panels. Bio huts have recently been installed. These are cages that consist of 3 compartments. The middle compartment contains shell material and ’empty’ baskets on both sides. The shell material in this middle basket provides shelter and food for small fish and small vertebrates. The ’empty’ baskets serve as protection against oversized fish so that the small fish can move safely in and around the shell material. The arrival of the bio huts is an incentive for the fish population and ecology in the water. An ecological agency at the solar park is also conducting research into how the ecology surrounding floating solar parks can be further stimulated. These measures were an important motive for ASN Groenprojectenfonds to participate in this solar park.”
Financier ASN Groenprojectenfonds (“ASN Green Projects Fund”) decided to make this its first investment in a floating solar power project. Fund manager Rosemarijn van der Meij noted: “Floating-PV has an important role to play if we are to make optimal use of solar energy generation. We expect this project to be a prelude to more financing for Floating-PV projects in the future.”
Aside from not needing land, and being a good option for places with adequate water bodies, floating solar offers unique benefits. “These include easier installation, higher potential yields due to the water-cooling effect and lower O&M costs,” ENF adds.