Floating Solar Array Weathers Cyclone Conditions

Oceans of Energy

Published Feb 17, 2020 1:34 AM by The Maritime Executive

A new floating offshore solar energy array has survived its first few months in the Dutch North Sea, including a cyclone.

Oceans of Energy's Zon-op-Zea (Solar-at-Sea) remained stable and intact during winds of up to 62 knots and waves over five meters high.

The system was increased in size in January from from 8.5kW to 17kW, and further expansion to 1MW is planned for the modular system.

Oceans for Energy says that a 100MW system could be supported. The company's Founder and CEO Allard van Hoeken says that offshore solar could supply half of the Netherlands total energy demand using less than five percent of the Dutch North Sea. Without an offshore solar system, the Netherlands cannot run 100 percent on sustainable energy, he says. “There is not enough space on the land for that.” 

A key feature of the system is that space could be used within existing and planned offshore wind farms. “The great thing about the combination of offshore sun and offshore wind turbines is that you can generate five times as much energy on the same part of the sea, and by combining these two you get a more stable and continuous power generation: it blows harder in winter and there is more sun in the summer,” said van Hoeken.

The two different power sources could make use of the same grid connections and maintenance plans.

As the tidal current continuously renews the seawater under the floating platforms, the effect of shadowing on plankton is negligible, says van Hoeken. Organisms living on the sea floor are not affected, as sunlight never penetrates to the bottom of the muddy waters of the North Sea.

The system also offers opportunities for fishing, because the floating installations serve as protected habitat for juvenile fish and facilitate the growth of mussels at sea and seaweed. Oceans of Energy is actively collaborating with the aquaculture sector on research in this area.

Zon-op-Zee was first launched in 2017 by Oceans of Energy in partnership with TNO, MARIN and ONE-Dyas, with backing from Dutch enterprise agency Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland.

“By having the first offshore solar system operational in one of the roughest seas in the world, we expect to create a large positive impact worldwide,” says van Hoeken. “Currently we are progressing towards the next phase, the upscaling phase. We are now raising the investments required.”