Dutch company could solve ocean solar farm problems

The Dutch solution for finding space for solar farms is to look for offshore sites The Dutch solution for finding space for solar farms is to look for offshore sites

Solar power is an effective way of generating electricity to meet the requirements of green energy but it can occupy valuable land areas reports Dag Pike.

This can be particularly the case in Holland where agricultural land is at a premium and this has led to the search for alternative locations.

Around the world there are many floating solar farms located on lakes but so far these have been restricted to calm water areas. Now a Dutch company is looking at a more ambitious solution.

The Dutch solution for finding space for solar farms is to look for offshore sites but the waters off the coast of Holland are busy and those not required as shipping channels are largely occupied by wind farms and gas fields. So the reasoning looked at the possibility of locating floating solar farms in the areas occupied by wind farms where the turbines are located a considerable distance apart leaving open water in between that is not used by shipping or fishermen.

These potential wind farm waters have the advantage that the turbines are already connected to the offshore electric grid so that a floating solar farm here would not require much additional infrastructure. The challenge comes in designing floating pontoons that can support the solar panels and establishing a mooring system that will work in often rough offshore waters. These challenges are considerable but the Dutch engineers have considerable experience in finding solutions to offshore problems.

Oceans of Energy is the company behind this project and they have €1.2 million of government funding to establish a prototype solar farm that will be located some 15kms off The Hague. “In addition to overcoming the land shortage there are several other benefits to building at sea similar to those with wind energy.” said solar energy expert Wilfried van Sark of the University. “There is more sun at sea and there is the benefit of the cooling water effect which can boost the output by up to 15%”.

If the test project is successful and the electricity generated is cheap enough the small prototype farm will be expanded to a size of 2,500 square metres. The project backers hope that this full-size solar farm will be finished by 2021.

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