Photo: Illustration/The solar farm Sekdoorn near Zwolle in the Netherlands (Courtesy of Fraunhofer ISE)

Germans pool expertise to test various types of floating solar systems

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) has teamed up with the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) and RWE Renewables to test several floating photovoltaic (PV) systems with different structure designs on open waters.

Example of a possible system design for floating PV (Courtesy of Fraunhofer ISE)
Example of a possible system design for floating PV (Courtesy of Fraunhofer ISE)

In the joint research project dubbed PV2Float, the partners plan to test different PV system designs on a suitable open pit lake which is currently being evaluated for the three-year project.

In Germany alone there are about 500 open pit lakes, leftover from lignite open cast mining. According to Fraunhofer ISE, the potential of these open pit lakes from a purely technical standpoint is in the mid double-digit gigawatt range.

The aim of the PV2Float project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, is to develop the potential of this technology.

The demonstration PV plant is to be designed and built together with Volta Solar. Four floating PV installations and a reference installation on land with a total power of around 150 kilowatts are planned, according to project partners.

The power plants installed and tested in this project form an important basis for the research work, with which a precise analysis of the technical requirements, economic efficiency and the ecological effects of floating PV power plants in Germany will be carried out.

Acceptance of the new technology will also be investigated, Fraunhofer ISE noted.

In addition to selecting the location of the site, the project partner RWE will carry out a comprehensive potential analysis of the German and international market for floating PV.

Thorsten Miltkau, senior manager for solar power at RWE renewables, said: “We see great potential for floating PV worldwide. With this research project, we want to deepen our knowledge of the technical possibilities of floating PV systems, such as scalability and energy yield, and transfer the findings to commercial projects”.

Heckert Solar, a solar module manufacturer, will support the project with innovative PV module concepts, the partners informed.

VDE Renewables is evaluating the developed power plant concepts to ensure that they comply with standards and electrical safety. They will also inspect the plants after construction.

Fraunhofer ISE will on the other hand investigate the regulatory framework for floating PV plants, and is also developing a procedure for the participation of local stakeholders.

Additionally, the institute will perform durability tests on the individual system components, further develop PV modules as well as simulation models on energy yield, adapting them to meet the particular requirements of floating applications, where necessary.

The researchers at Fraunhofer ISE will also investigate the economic viability of floating PV, the institute informed.

Stefan Wieland, project head at Fraunhofer ISE, said: “Bodies of water put special demands on the design, material, environmental compatibility and operational management of floating PV power plants. In the project, these aspects are investigated for large floating PV plants”.

The aquatic ecology monitoring responsibility has been entrusted to BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg and the Institut für Wasser und Boden Dr. Uhlmann in Dresden.

Dieter Leßmann of the Faculty of Water Protection at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg added: “The ecological compatibility of floating PV systems is a basic prerequisite for approval and authorization. In the research project PV2Float, we will deepen our knowledge on the ecological effects that these systems may have on bodies of water”.