Floating solar technology is being used for the first time to power a seaweed farm, off the coast of the Netherlands.
Billed by its developer Oceans of Energy as a “world-first for sustainable, multifunctional use of space in the North Sea”, the PV-powered aquaculture plant, developed with the Seaweed Company 12km off Scheveningen in the north of the country, aims to be an “example for the future [designs]” of offshore energy complexes in northern Europe.
The 50kW hybrid project, which is spread across a 6km2 swathe of sea, builds on the so-called Zon-op-Zee (Solar at Sea) pilot run late last year, where an Oceans of Energy array rode out three months of trials in harsh weather including the Ciara bomb cyclone, in a key test for a technology that has been calculated capable of one day supplying half of the Netherlands total energy demand.
“After a year of successful operation on the North Sea with the first offshore solar system, it is very special that we have now accomplished to generate clean energy as well as produce food at sea, because both are important necessities of life,” said Allard van Hoeken, Oceans of Energy’s CEO.
Joost Wouters, CEO of the Seaweed Company stated: “It makes me proud that this project shows that we can use the space between wind turbines at sea to its full extent for the cultivation of valuable seaweed.”
The offshore solar-powered seaweed farm is part of the European H2020United project, launched to kick-start “sustainable and multi-use offshore systems” in European Union waters.
The Solar at Sea project is back by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and several European regional development projects .
“Seaweed has lots of valuable applications in food for humans, animals and plants, but can also serve as basis for materials, bioplastics and energy,” said Wouters, who believes “the future of large-scale seaweed production lies at offshore wind parks”. ,
Seaweed collection will be carried out by the Cultivator, an offshore harvesting machine developed by the project team in collaboration with several Dutch partners.
Oceans of Energy’s floating PV concept, engineered to handle waves 13-metre high waves at the seaweed harvesting project site, is intended for use as part of larger offshore power complexes that would marry solar arrays ranging from 100MW-5GW to wind farms with energy storage.
“By using only 5% of the Dutch North Sea, half of the energy demand of the Netherlands can be generated. This can be accomplished by using the space between wind turbines,” said van Hoeken.
Zon-op-Zee, launched in 2017, is one of the first so-called 'high wave' solar projects. Others include one being led by maritime contracting giant DEME one being led by maritime contracting giant DEMEto develop an open-ocean floating solar array concept off Belgium, as part of longer-term plans to build the technology into future offshore wind and aquaculture farms.
Though high-wave solar remains an emerging technology, in-land arrays are being seen as an increasingly attractive option for large-scale PV deployment on reservoirs and alongside hydropower facilities, especially where land is limited.
The largest such project currently is a 150MW development in Anhui, China, but, as Recharge has reported, that is soon set to be overshadowed by massive developments elsewhere in the world, including a 1GW plant in India and an sprawling 2.9GW complex off South Korea.
The world largest floating solar array outside China – BayWa’s 27.4MW Bomhofsplas project in the Netherlands – is slated to be up and running later this month, according to its developer.