Chinese development giant SPIC and a Norwegian solar pioneer are claiming a world first after deploying an offshore floating PV plant integrated with a wind turbine – and now hope it passes a testing typhoon season off China.

The hybrid plant off Shandong province uses floating PV arrays designed by Norway’s Ocean Sun linked to an SPIC offshore wind turbine and sharing its power export cable.

The twin 0.5MW floating arrays will act as a pilot for a planned 20MW project in 2023, said Ocean Sun, which is working with partners around the world to commercialise its patented 'flotation ring' polymer membrane technology.

The company claimed the link with wind power would help drive down cost of energy by boosting output and believes “a large market” will emerge for hybrid offshore deployments. Major players such as RWE have already unveiled plans for their own projects in the North Sea.

While deployment of floating PV on inland surfaces such as lakes and reservoirs is already booming, placing solar at sea presents a new level of challenge due to the harsh conditions facing equipment offshore.

Ocean Sun CEO Børge Bjørneklett said earlier this year that the waters off Shandong “see annual typhoons with challenging sea state, and all involved parties are aware of the risks. In all circumstances, Ocean Sun will improve our product with learnings from this exposed site”.

The pilot now has to survive one typhoon season to “show its robustness”.

Bjørneklett claimed to Recharge in an interview last year that ocean-based PV has the potential to beat floating wind in terms of growth.

“The application area is so much larger [than for floating wind] if you look at irradiation maps of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia.”

The Ocean Sun CEO also said the technology has onshore solar in its sights.

“I think to be a bit futuristic, people will ask themselves why they put up solar panels on land at all,” he said.