Photo: ‘Bomhofsplas’ floating solar farm in Zwolle, the Netherlands (Courtesy of BayWa r.e.)

First insights into floating solar show no adverse environmental impacts

German renewable energy company BayWa r.e. has informed that the initial studies carried out on a floating solar farm in Zwolle in the Netherlands showed no adverse effects to the surrounding environment.

Photo showing ‘Bomhofsplas’ floating solar farm in Zwolle, the Netherlands (Courtesy of BayWa r.e.)
‘Bomhofsplas’ floating solar farm in Zwolle, the Netherlands (Courtesy of BayWa r.e.)

The first results of the environmental studies carried out at the largest floating solar farm outside of Asia, relating specifically to BayWa r.e.’s certified floating solar solution, showed no adverse effects to the surrounding environment, the company informed.

BayWa r.e., along with its Dutch subsidiary Groenleven, is cooperating with Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen and Buro Bakker/ATKB to conduct research into how floating photovoltaic (PV) affects the environment.

The studies started at the time of construction of the ‘Bomhofsplas’ plant in February 2020.

Toni Weigl, head of product management for floating-PV at BayWa r.e. solar projects, said: “BayWa r.e. is committed to preserving biodiversity and water quality. The first results of the environmental studies prove no notable negative effects on the flora or fauna of the lake. In fact, initial results are positive, and it is great to see our system integrating itself so well into the lake’s environment.

This important collaboration with Hanze University and Buro Bakker/ ATKB will give us useful guidance for the future development of new floating-PV projects”.

Water quality

According to the water quality monitoring carried out by Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the level of oxygen content under the floating-PV panels has only decreased slightly within one year, as wind and sunlight can still easily reach the water surface under the panels, BayWa r.e. said.

The changes measured were primarily caused by weather variations, which have been continuously monitored. According to the researchers, the water quality below the floating-PV farm remains at the same good level as the surrounding water surface.

Biodiversity and ecology

As part of its research into the effects of floating-PV panels on water, ecology and biodiversity, Buro Bakker / ATKB observed that the presence of the panels leads to less wind activity on the water surface, resulting in less erosion of the banks and therefore protecting and stimulating vegetation.

Ongoing research is also being conducted regarding the impacts on the fish population at the lake. Bio huts made by Ecocean have been filled with seashells and submerged beneath the floating-PV panels to potentially encourage marine life and greater biodiversity.

After this first year of research, no initial negative effects have been seen. However, multi-year research is required to establish clear results and studies will be ongoing over several years to monitor the long-term effects in detail, according to BayWa r.e.

Continuous multi-year research

The current research provides good insight into the environmental impacts of floating-PV, but continuous research is needed to map out a complete picture for the future, BayWa r.e. noted.

“The positive environmental impact is a key aspect of our floating-PV design. With this product we can produce renewable energy while improving the conditions for wildlife on site.

“Climate targets are getting more ambitious by the day, so we must expand all possible renewable generation applications and utilise the enormous potential of solar energy. Floating-PV is a promising solution that has an important role to play,” said Benedikt Ortmann, BayWa r.e.’s global director of solar projects.

With more than 250,000 installed floating-PV panels at eight solar farms, BayWa r.e. is one of the leaders in the European floating-PV market.

Currently, BayWa r.e. has the 29.8MWp Uivermeertjes Floating-PV park under construction, which will be again the largest in Europe to date.