Europe’s energy giants explore the potential of floating solar

Floating solar panels in the Netherlands. Several major energy companies are looking at the potential of combining floating solar with other energy sources.

Mischa Keijser | Image source | beautiful pictures

German energy company RWE is to invest in a pilot project revolving around the deployment of floating solar technology in the North Sea, as part of a broader partnership focused on developing a “floating solar park” .

Installed in the waters off Ostend, Belgium, the pilot, known as the Mergenser, will have a peak power output of 0.5 megawatts, or MWp. In a statement earlier this week, RWE said that the Merganser will be the first offshore pilot for Dutch-Norwegian company SolarDuck.

RWE said that Mergenser will provide both itself and SolarDuck with “significant first-hand experience in one of the most challenging offshore environments in the world.”

Research gathered from the project will enable faster commercialization of the technology from 2023, it added.

RWE describes SolarDuck’s system as 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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The long-term goal of the partnership is for SolarDuck’s technology to be used in a larger demonstration project at the Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm, for which RWE is currently bidding.

In its statement, RWE said “integration of offshore floating solar energy into an offshore wind farm” is “a more efficient use of ocean space for energy production.”

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

CrossWind, a corporation in partnership with Hollandse Kust (noord), is a joint venture between Eneco and Cover.

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

The project will allow a combination of solar and hydroelectric power from the dam in Alqueva, the EDP said. There are also plans to install a battery storage system.

All of the above projects are based on 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 “bets on hybridization, by combining electricity produced from water, sun, wind and storage” represents a “reasonable growth path.”

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

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