Oceans of Energy
IMPACT ON FISH AND MARINE LIFE
Offshore floating solar systems are expected to provide several positive effects on the ocean environment. It is well known that floating objects that cover part of the sea attract fish and other life. Since the start of our offshore operations, we have observed how our structures provide new substrates for species to settle on, and function as artificial reefs. These biofouling communities form the base of food webs, which, together with the shelter offered by the platforms, create environments attractive to larger and more mobile species such as crabs and fish. Animals may use the area as nursery grounds, or as stepping stones to distribute over larger areas.
SYNERGIES WITH AQUACULTURE
Combining solar energy production and aquaculture in an offshore environment can have significant positive impacts. We have an award-winning design that combines our system with the cultivation of hang culture mussels. We will continue to explore the synergies between our offshore floating solar technology and aquaculture to grow sustainable proteins and seaweed, with species thriving both in temperate as well as (sub) tropical areas.
Sunlight is necessary for life in the ocean. Our floating farms are designed such that sunlight is guided into the water column. In addition, the in- and outgoing tides move the water in and out, hence water and phytoplankton are only temporary underneath our system. These tiny plants at the bottom of the food chain that need sunlight, are vital for the rest of the marine ecosystem. We measure light and chlorophyll data, next to many other water parameters, and use these data to predict how the tiny plants react when flowing underneath larger solar farms. Our computer models show that there is no impact on the primary production of the phytoplankton, even with unrealistically large sized solar farms. In reality, an offshore floating solar system will cover only a fraction of the surrounding sea.
ECOSYSTEM EFFECTS ON SOLAR PANELS
A challenge for the solar market is to assure the solar panels remain clean so sunlight can penetrate on the photovoltaic cells. Onshore solar farms struggle with a reduction in efficiency due to the adhesion of particles, dust, bird droppings and leaves. The regular and natural cleaning of seawater takes care of this in our design, which has been improved over the year in which we have gathered field data. Also, we are excited to be field testing specifically designed PV coatings to prevent marine growth and biofilm to develop on the glass of the PV units.
As part of our extensive environmental monitoring program, our in-house marine ecologists collect daily data at our pilot sites in the North Sea, such as chlorophyll concentrations, turbidity levels, sea water temperatures, light attenuation, and camera images. These data are crucial in answering important questions and filling knowledge gaps. We are committed to continue close monitoring and working together with the marine science community in order to fully understand all marine interactions.
Safe drinking water is increasingly threatened in dry coastal regions. We deliver clean energy for the production of unlimited, safe and reliable fresh water in dry coastal regions, without compromising the valuable coastal space.