European energy giants are exploring the potential of floating solar

Floating solar panels in the Netherlands. A number of major energy companies are investigating the possibility of combining floating solar power with other energy sources.

Micha Keijser | Source of images | Getty Images

German energy company RWE will invest in a pilot project centered on the deployment of floating solar technology in the North Sea, as part of a wider collaboration focused on the development of “floating solar parks”.

Scheduled to be installed in the waters off Ostend, Belgium, the pilot, called Merganser, will have a capacity of 0.5 megawatt peak, or MWp. In a statement earlier this week, RWE said Merganser would be Dutch-Norwegian company SolarDuck’s first offshore pilot.

RWE said Merganser would provide itself and SolarDuck with “significant first-hand experience in one of the world’s most challenging offshore environments.”

Lessons learned from the project would enable faster commercialization of the technology from 2023, he added.

RWE described SolarDuck’s system as being based on a design that allows the solar panels to “float” meters above the water and ride the waves “like a carpet”.

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A longer-term goal of the collaboration is for SolarDuck’s technology to be used in a larger demonstration project at the yet-to-be-developed Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm, for which RWE is currently issuing a tender. offers.

In its statement, RWE said the “integration of offshore floating solar power into an offshore wind farm” was “a more efficient use of ocean space for power generation”.

The idea of ​​combining wind and solar is not unique to RWE. The Hollandse Kust (noord) wind farm, which will also be located in the North Sea, also plans to deploy a demonstration of floating solar technology.

CrossWind, the consortium working on Hollandse Kust (north), is a joint venture between Eneco and Shell.

Earlier this month, Portuguese energy company EDP inaugurated a 5 MW floating solar park in Alqueva. He describes the park, which consists of nearly 12,000 photovoltaic panels, as “Europe’s largest in a reservoir”.

The project would combine solar power and hydroelectric power from the Alqueva dam, EDP said. It is also planned to install a battery storage system.

All of the above projects feed into the idea of ​​’hybridization’, whereby different renewable energy technologies and systems are combined on one site.

In comments published last week, EDP CEO Miguel Stilwell d’Andrade said that “betting on hybridization, combining electricity produced from water, sun, wind and storage” represented a “logical path to growth”.

EDP ​​will continue to invest in hybridization as it optimizes resources and allows the company to produce cheaper energy, he added.

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