Offshore wind is poised to provide a significant proportion of Europe’s electrical energy in the near future. But those towers and turbines have to be spaced fairly far apart to avoid interfering with each other. That leaves a lot of open ocean in between them, ocean that has sunlight falling on it all day long.
SolarDuck, a Dutch/Norwegian company, is working on floating solar technology that would float on the surface of the ocean to generate electricity to supplement the output from those offshore wind turbines. They already need to have undersea cables to carry their electricity ashore. Why not leverage that infrastructure to carry electricity from solar panels as well?
Why, indeed. RWE, one of Germany’s largest utility companies, has entered into an agreement to explore and develop offshore floating solar parks globally, starting with a a 0.5 MW installation called Merganser, which will be part of an offshore wind development in the North Sea near Ostend, Belgium. The project will include battery storage and will serve as a trial of the new technology before expanding on it and applying it in other locations.
This collaboration agreement accelerates the transition of SolarDuck’s offshore floating solar technology towards bankable, commercial technology, and speeds up the roll-out of this exciting new technology globally. SolarDuck CEO Koen Burgers says, “The need for secure, sustainable and affordable energy demands new and immediate answers from the industry in Europe and also globally. SolarDuck is part of this answer, allowing for solar deployments at sea opening up an exciting new market.
“Showcasing SolarDuck’s robust technology in rough North Sea conditions will enable us to deploy the technology practically anywhere in the world. We are very pleased that we found in RWE a strong partner who shares our vision of electrifying the world with offshore floating PV. I look forward to our organizations working together to achieve just that.”
According to CNBC, the SolarDuck system uses a design that permits the solar panels to “float” 5 meters above the water and ride waves “like a carpet.” It also can withstand winds of up to 70 mph and has a projected useful life of 30 years. One goal of the collaboration is for the SolarDuck floating solar technology to be used in a bigger demonstration project as part of the Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm, which is currently under development. RWE says the “integration of offshore floating solar into an offshore wind farm” was “a more efficient use of ocean space for energy generation.”
Ocean-Based Floating Solar Has Arrived
SolarDuck is not the only company working on ocean-based floating solar. According to CNBC, a consortium made up of Shell and Eneco is developing an offshore wind farm that will incorporate a range of “technology demonstrations” including floating solar, short term battery storage, and hydrogen produced by electrolysis. The 759 MW Hollandse Kust North facility will use 69 turbines from Siemens Gamesa, each with a capacity of 11 MW for a total capacity of 3.3 TWh annually. The CrossWind joint venture, which will be located approximately 18.5 kilometers off the coast of the Netherlands, is expected to be in operation in 2023.
Offshore floating solar will be one piece of the renewable energy puzzle that we will need to wean ourselves off our fossil fuel addiction as we struggle to keep the Earth cool enough to support human life. A little less shouting at each other and more collaboration would also go a long way toward keeping the only home we will ever have habitable.
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