With large amounts of open land hard to come by in small and densely-populated Holland, solar farms didn’t seem a likely way to help the country cut its fossil fuel loss. But the Dutch figured out a place to put one. In the sea.
A consortium called Oceans of Energy said earlier this month that it is converting an offshore seaweed farm in The North Sea into a solar floating farm over the next three years, a test project aimed as a prelude to a larger use of the concept.
It’s called Sun on Sea, or Zon op Zee, in Dutch.
The test farm is a 30-square mile area about nine miles off the coast of The Hague.
“What we are going to put down here in three years is special and has never been done before,” said Allard van Hoeken, founder and CEO of Oceans of Energy.
He noted that solar farms have been created on inland bodies of water – but it’s much harder to do in the open ocean. “After all, you are dealing with enormous waves and other destructive forces of nature,” van Hoeken said.
“The whole world can benefit from this,” van Hoeken said. “The majority of people on earth live in coastal areas…. We expect to create a large, positive impact worldwide.”
Oceans of Energy believes the project will produce more energy than a similar project on land because of the temperature of the water.
“Offshore, the seawater provides a strong cooling effect,” Utrecht University solar energy expert Wilfried van Sark, who is leading a study of the project’s effectiveness, said on the university’s website. “As a result, the yield of a solar panel there is expected to be around 15 percent higher than it would be on land.
“Yet there are other factors that negatively impact yield as well,” van Sark said. “The solar panels will at times be underwater – when the waves reach heights of ten meters, this is unavoidable. The panels will wobble a bit, too. The impact of those dynamic shifts in tilt angle hasn’t yet been studied, either.”
The consortium will get some financial help from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, part of the Dutch government’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.
Frank Witte, energy innovation manager at the agency, said the project had a good potential to be repeated elsewhere in Holland, at a minimum. He also said officials were interested in the potential for at-sea solar panel farms to be used to power offshore oil and gas platforms. “(Netherlands Enterprise Agency) is looking forward with interest to the results, including the yields and lifepsan, in these difficult and demanding sea conditions,” Witte said.
Other partners in the consortium are Energy Center of the Netherlands, The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Marine Research Institute Netherlands, and the Abu Dhabi-based global energy conglomerate TAQA.