Europe’s energy giants are exploring the potential of floating solar power

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

Misha Keizer | Image Source | Getty Images

German energy company RWE plans to invest in a pilot project aimed at deploying floating solar technology in the North Sea as part of a wider collaboration aimed at developing “floating solar parks”.

The pilot, called Merganser, will be installed in the waters off Ostend, Belgium, and will have a peak power of 0.5 megawatts, or MW. Earlier this week, RWE said in a statement that Merganser would be the first offshore pilot for Dutch-Norwegian firm SolarDuck.

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

Learning from the project will allow faster commercialization of the technology from 2023, the report added.

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

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The longer-term goal of the collaboration is for SolarDuck technology to be used in a larger demonstration project at the Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm, which RWE is currently tendering for.

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

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 launch a demonstration of floating solar technology.

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

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

The project will combine solar energy and hydroelectricity from the Alkeve dam, EDP reports. There are also plans to install a battery system.

All of the above projects support the idea of ​​”hybridization”, where different renewable energy technologies and systems are combined on one site.

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

EDP ​​will continue to invest in hybridization because it optimized resources and allowed the company to produce cheaper energy, he added.

Europe’s energy giants are exploring the potential of floating solar power

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