A pioneering project advancing the concept of industrial-scale floating solar power has taken a key stride forward with ‘approval in principle’ (AIP) certification from classification body Bureau Veritas.

Dutch designer Oceans of Energy’s pilot in the North Sea, installed off the Netherlands in 2019, is claimed to be the world’s first so-called ‘high wave’ design, a lightweight, wave-riding technology devised for hostile marine environments.

The 0.5MW Zon-op-Zee (Solar-at-Sea) demonstrator, engineered to use the sea “directly as support, like a waterlily resting on the water surface”, has regularly withstood heavy storms, with waves as high as 10 metres during the Ciara bomb cyclone, during its first four years of operation.

“[The concept] has a unique design: rather than heavy structures above sea, which are normally used for offshore technology, the offshore solar farm system is lightweight,” said Oceans of Energy CEO Allard van Hoeken. “In order to withstand high waves and rough seas, it uses an innovative system combining rigid and flexible structures that allows it to ride on waves.”

The AIP, awarded based on North Sea-class tests of the system and load cases, encompasses “all aspects and products needed” for the production of an solar farm in open sea, including the design’s base, floaters, panel mounting, and mooring system.

“This AIP is testimony to sound engineering, a feasible and sound concept choice and a recognition as a leading technology with a promising future,” said van Hoeken.

Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore senior president, technical and operations, Laurent Leblanc, stated: “We have extensive experience in the marine and offshore market that helps us to provide relevant and efficient support to pioneers such as Oceans of Energy.

“Our mission of “shaping a better maritime world” is all about enabling these innovative solutions that support society’s new demands and aspirations. We look forward to collaborating on the next steps of their venture.”

High-wave solar remains an emerging technology, with Oceans of Energy’s design one of few in development, alongside Belgian maritime contracting giant DEME, which launched €2m ($2.3m) in 2019, and Saipem-backed Moss Maritime is working with Norwegian energy giant Equinor to develop off-the-shelf, ‘flat-pack’ technologyfor clean near-coast power.