Oceans of Energy
Technology and Environment
OFFSHORE FLOATING SOLAR FARM SYSTEM
The Oceans of Energy Offshore Floating Solar Farm System is developed for offshore high wave application in salt water, to last 25 years with minimum and safe maintenance. This is challenging – but our unique solutions are proven. The modular system is capable of withstanding rough sea conditions with waves up to 13 meters. A system capable of surviving these conditions is needed for clean energy generation in coastal regions and islands without using land space.
Photovoltaic (PV) technology is a mature and economically feasible renewable energy source in nearly any region. Economic feasibility depends strongly on scale benefits at projects, and is therefore highly affected by space constraints. Moving solar to the space abundant seas allows large scale projects. Oceans of Energy has tested various PV modules and uses the best modules for offshore application.
The mooring system keeps the offshore floating solar farm in place. Our mooring systems are developed in-house, optimized for large offshore floating solar farms in rough conditions, therefore enabling scale benefits and economically successful projects at sea.
Wind speed and solar irradiation are complimentary, therefore integrating floating solar panels into offshore wind farms could result in more efficient use of the offshore energy grid. This results in the multi-use of space in the North Sea and has the potential to increase the energy efficiency on site. Also, the offshore floating solar farms provide wave dampening which could positively impact other offshore stakeholders such as windpark operators, because wind pillars will be exposed to less forces and there will be more days available for maintenance at sea. And North Sea farmers of seaweed and mariculture. Together with partners, we research this wave dampening effect within the EU supported H2020 project UNITED. See our animation video by clicking in this box.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.