A Dutch first: Refueling ships with hydrogen at floating solar islands
Powering ships with hydrogen that can be refueled at offshore floating solar islands sounds like a perfect sustainable shipping alternative. Now, the idea is coming closer to reality in the Netherlands with a prototype of such solar island set for testing on the Waal near IJzendoorn through a joint effort by SolarDuck and Voyex.
Namely, the two Dutch companies have secured €350,000 in subsidies from the Province of Gelderland for the project that will also be supported by Dekker Group who will provide space for testing.
The research and development partnership between SolarDuck and Voyex will seek to enable emission-free sailing by using hydrogen, as it is safe, easy, economic and technically feasible, according to the partners.
“The innovative power lies in combining technologies”, according to Koen Burgers, CEO of SolarDuck. “If upscaled, a solar island at sea and on rivers can offer the shipping sector a sustainable alternative”.
The testing, said to be the first of its kind in the Netherlands, is planned to start in April 2021, according to project partners.
SolarDuck will supply the solar island consisting of four linked platforms, containing 39 solar panels each, for the test set-up.
These modular platforms are suited for the rough conditions found at sea, but will first be tested on the Waal to look at the effects of strong currents and heavy winds, the project partners said.
The floating solar island, which produces 65kWs of peak power, is connected to a 10kW electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. The hydrogen is bonded to a ‘Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier’ (LOHC), an oil-like liquid which serves as a binding agent, or carrier, for the produced hydrogen, according to project partners.
“This ‘hydrogen-oil ‘can be transported at room temperature, under the same atmospheric conditions as fuels such as diesel”, Wiard Leenders, CEO of Voyex, explained.
Furthermore, part of the test setup relates to the manner in which the hydrogen is released from the oil and subsequently used to generate power on board. “The carrier itself can be reused“, Leenders adds.
This means that the entire energy grid, up to and including the sailing on safe hydrogen, is within reach, the partners said.
Both companies have the long-term ambition, although within their own respective angle of approach, to produce hydrogen using floating solar islands at sea to supply both the shipping sector and for other heavy-duty applications.
“Our floating sand extracting plants have already been made much more sustainable, however we are still looking for a solution for our fleet”, said Gert Pomstra, Director of Dekker Group. “We wholeheartedly support the innovation of SolarDuck and Voyex, and hope this will contribute to making inland shipping more sustainable”.
The €1 million project is aptly named ‘The Atoll’, referring to the movie ‘Waterworld’, in which an artificial man-made island supplies its own energy needs.
The Netherlands is making progress towards developing floating solar power as a viable renewable energy option for various uses.
Early in February, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Bas van ‘t Wout, published a roadmap for floating solar energy, outlining the opportunities and risks associated with this growing industry in the Netherlands.
The roadmap features separate analyses of floating solar industry for the small inland waterways, large inland waterways and the North Sea, as the potential for energy generation and the legal context differ for each location.