RWE invests in a pilot with a floating solar farm from SolarDuck

Energy company RWE and Dutch-Norwegian SolarDuck enter into a cooperation agreement. The parties jointly want to develop the use of floating solar parks at sea. In order to gain knowledge for this more quickly, RWE is investing in the first offshore pilot project with a floating solar farm in the North Sea. The pilot was eventually to lay the foundation for a larger demonstration project in the Dutch offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust West (HKW).

SolarDuck is a company that focuses on the development of floating solar farms. It is a modular solution suitable for harsh sea conditions. By placing solar parks at sea, SolarDuck wants, among other things, to deliver competitively priced solar energy.

We currently generate a lot of solar energy on land. SolarDuck points out the limitations of this on its website. For example, the amount of soil on Earth is limited, which means that choices must be made about its use. Solar panels are installed on roofs in many cities. However, the amount of available roof space is also limited.

There is plenty of space at sea

According to SolarDuck, floating solar farms can offer a solution. However, the company points out that the location where these solar parks are located is of great importance. For example, the amount of inland waterways is very limited. Only 0.2% of the earth’s surface consists of inland waters. Many rivers are also relatively full, including boats.

However, there is plenty of space at sea. For example, 71% of the Earth’s surface is oceans. The company states that, among other reasons, floating offshore solar parks are the future.

RWE reports that SolarDuck can help use the sea surface more efficiently for the production of sustainable energy. For example, floating solar farms can be placed between wind turbines at sea. The company also sees opportunities for synergies in relation to the construction and maintenance of the multifunctional renewable energy source. In this way, RWE wants to achieve a balanced energy production. It points to the complementary nature of wind and solar energy sources.

Resistant to harsh conditions

Offshore solar farms sometimes operate in harsh conditions, including high waves and strong winds. The solar parks are also active in salt water. SolarDuck responds to this with a triangular platform. It floats several meters above the water and follows the waves. The procedure ensures, among other things, that important electrical components remain dry, clean and stable. This extends the life of the construction.

SolarDuck reports on its website that the platform consists of triangles that are flexibly connected to each other. The company states that this is the most cost-effective structural topology. The construction also offers advantages in situations where the platform must withstand waves from several angles. In that case, the construction reduces the load. In addition, the construction ensures high stability. Because the platform floats a few meters above the water, it can (partially) avoid wave action. The platform previously received the world’s first certification for floating offshore solar installations from Bureau Veritas.

As mentioned before, the platform is modular. This means, among other things, that several platforms can be connected and combined. For this purpose, the platforms can be connected at sea.

pilot

The pilot that RWE and SolarDuck will carry out is called Merganser. The project will have a nominal capacity of 0.5 MWp. The pilot installation is expected to be installed off the coast of Ostend in the Belgian North Sea. This is SolarDuck’s first pilot at sea. Last year, SolarDuck successfully completed a pilot in the interior of the Netherlands.

Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Offshore Wind RWE Renewables states: “RWE is constantly looking for innovative ways to further improve the production of renewable energy at sea. We are very excited to further explore the potential of floating solar farms at sea with our partner SolarDuck. This provides attractive opportunities for countries with lower average wind speeds but with high solar radiation. With the SolarDuck pilot, we gain experience with a highly innovative technique for floating solar panels at sea. We want to contribute to accelerating the energy transition, have a positive impact on marine ecology and help integrate energy systems. Together, we can really make a difference by using tomorrow’s technology for today’s projects.”

Koen Burgers, CEO of SolarDuck, said: “The need for safe, sustainable and affordable energy requires new and immediate responses from industry in Europe and globally. SolarDuck is part of the answer that brings solar energy to the oceans. By demonstrating SolarDucks robust technology in the harsh conditions of the North Sea, we can deploy the technology virtually anywhere in the world. We are pleased to have found a strong partner in RWE who shares our vision of electrifying the world through floating solar energy at sea. I look forward to to work with our companies to achieve just that.”

After the Merganser and Hollandse Kust West project, the parties want to explore new opportunities. The aim is to develop commercial offshore floating solar farms, both stand-alone and hybrid.

Author: Wouter Hoeffnagel
Photo: RWE

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