A Dutch startup has been awarded the contract to install floating solar panels at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea.
Oceans of Energy secured the order from CrossWind, a joint venture between Shell and Eneco. The renewable energy startup has been commissioned to build a 0.5MW floating array between wind turbines at the 750MW Hollands Kust Noord wind farm, located 18.5km off the coast of the Netherlands.
According to the startup, founded in 2016 by Dutch engineer and entrepreneur Allard van Hoeken, This would be the first offshore solar farm in the world to be connected, installed and operated within a wind farm in “high wave” conditions.
The solar panels will be placed between the offshore wind turbines and provide backup power on sunnier but less windy days. The panels are moored to the wind turbines and connected to the same cables to efficiently transport the energy to the end users.
Van Hoeken says the project “is going to work as an example for future combined offshore wind and solar farms.”
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After connection to the Dutch electricity grid in 2025, two years after the wind farm goes into operation, the solar system will supply energy for around 500 households.
So far, the startup has mainly relied on subsidies from the Dutch government, which it has raised 20 million euros so far. However, financial details of the new deal with CrossWind were not disclosed.
Oceans of Energy’s pilot floating solar plant, located 15km off the coast of The Hague, has successfully weathered years of storms and rough seas. Credit: Oceans of Energy.
Oceans of Energy built a slightly larger array in 2019, which it has used to test the technology and its ability to withstand some of the roughest seas on earth. The rig is still operational despite being hit by some pretty severe storms in recent years.
Researchers from Utrecht University have been closely monitoring the power generation of the pilot plant, which is located about 15 km off the coast of The Hague. in a test zone known as North Sea Farm.
“Besides solving the problem of land scarcity, building at sea has several other advantages similar to those of wind energy,” said Utrecht University solar energy expert Wilfried van Sark, who is involved in the project Reuters. “There’s more sun at sea and there’s the added benefit of a cooling system for the panels that increases performance by up to 15%,” he said.
According to the Dutch research organization TNO, 200 gigawatts of solar power are to be generated in the Netherlands by 2050, 25 of which on inland waterways and 45 at sea. This is expected to open up many opportunities for Oceans of Energy and other emerging startups SolarDucka Norwegian-Dutch company currently building an even larger floating solar plant in the North Sea.