Photo: The illustration of the 500kWp Merganser offshore floating solar system (Courtesy of SolarDuck)

Netherlands boosts industry consortium with €7.8M for offshore floating solar development

Dutch-Norwegian company SolarDuck and its consortium partners have received a €7.8 million project subsidy from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) to develop, test and validate the Merganser floating solar energy platform in harsh North Sea weather conditions.

The illustration of the 500MWp Merganser offshore floating solar system (Courtesy of SolarDuck)
The illustration of the 500kWp Merganser offshore floating solar system (Courtesy of SolarDuck)

Offshore floating solar company SolarDuck and marine research institutes TU Delft, TNO, MARIN and Deltares will work together to prove that the new installation can accelerate and scale up the energy transition through marine floating solar energy, solving the problem of limited available land space at the same time.

Backed by a subsidy from the Dutch governmental program Demonstration Energy & Climate Innovation (DEI+), the pilot will see six linked offshore floating solar platforms that will be able to deliver 500kWp of clean power.

Don Hoogendoorn, CTO of consortium partner SolarDuck, said: “We are very proud to have the DEI+ subsidy on board to build a scalable floating solar energy solution. Based on our first, successful pilot in 2021, our technology has already obtained an Approval in Principal (AiP) from Bureau Veritas.

“We are proud to collaborate with such renowned knowledge institutions as Deltares, Marin, TNO and TU Delft. You must realize that these people are the best in their field – all of them have dedicated their professional lives to solar and maritime research.

“Together, we’ll make this project successful and make sustainable offshore solar energy  commercially viable much faster. This fits perfectly with our aim to power the world with clean energy and support the energy transition.”

The pilot project is executed under the assumption that the installed capacity of ocean energy systems needs to accelerated to meet both national and international climate and energy supply goals.

The project also adheres to the United Nations’ goal of moving from negotiations and planning to implementation, as stated by the 27th Climate Change Conference under Egypt’s presidency COP27.

Advantages of offshore floating solar systems

Perhaps the biggest advantage of floating solar applications is the availability of many square miles of space, something that both in the Netherlands and in coastal megacities across the globe is in short supply.

An additional promising edge is that they can be installed safely in between existing offshore wind turbines and could be built anywhere with ‘pop-up’ assembly lines. These – and more – assumptions will be tested and monitored as well by the consortium.

Yet another advantage is energy supply stability. For example, the Dutch regular grid is close to reaching its limits. Knowing that offshore wind only uses about 50% of the Dutch North Sea’s export cable means that here is a huge opportunity to complement electricity supply by means of solar power, according to the Merganser consortium.

Last but not least, when the 500kWp project delivers the expected results, it can easily be upgraded to gigawatt scale, making it ideal for coastal megacities’ energy needs, the consortium expects.

Scope of work for the consortium partners

The total scope of work is huge, according to the consortium. SolarDuck will take on project management, develop the final technical specifications of Merganser and provide technical support for the partnering knowledge institutes.

In addition, the consortium will develop the requirements for a commercial-sized project of at least 5MWp. To that end, containerization and pop-up assembly concepts will be designed to arrange for efficient transport and local construction of future Merganser units.

The partner institutes will cover a large research scope, including for example corrosion resistance of the solar and electrical systems, UV degradation of the synthetic anchors and marine growth on the floaters.

From monitoring cost of virtually all Merganser aspects – including decommissioning – to investigating possible electrical integration of offshore solar and wind energy and from building fatigue prediction models to flexible mooring line concepts in shallow water, virtually everything is covered in this pilot.

The group will even do research into the social acceptance of offshore floating solar technology among stakeholders and if Merganser can bring positive contributions to marine biodiversity and ‘new’ habitats.

Wiep Folkerts, program manager at TNO, said: “This project is an important building block for our mission to generate attractive and affordable options for the energy transition. I am sure that everyone who has an interest in renewable offshore energy generation will learn valuable new knowledge from this project.”

Merganser is expected to complete testing and monitoring by the end of 2024, in line with the DEI+ subsidy requirements, the consortium partners noted.

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