Offshore floating PV may reach maturity in 2030


The North Sea may host around 10 GW of electricity generation capacity from offshore floating PV and aquatic biomass power plants, by 2050.

This is one of the main findings of a study conducted by Norwegian consultancy DNV GL on behalf of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, in which the North Sea's overall potential for renewable energy potential, including offshore wind power plants, was assessed.

The review of all innovative renewable technologies shows that floating solar PV and aquatic biomass will be sufficiently mature after 2030 to be able to make a significant contribution to the energy supply from the North Sea,” the authors of the report stated.

The DNV GL experts see offshore PV as a complementary technology of offshore wind, with solar panels being installed in the space between the wind turbines and connected to their transmission lines. They expect that a floating solar system of approximately 1 MW will be linked to each offshore wind turbine in the North Sea from 2025 to 2030.

The LCOE of offshore PV systems is currently estimated at around €354/MWh but in the future it should be close to that of ground-mounted solar parks, which for the Netherlands are estimated at €50/MWh in 2030 and €40/MWh in 2050. Their economic feasibility depends on the distance from the coast and the possibility of coupling to the grid connection of offshore wind.

According to the report, the North Sea may host around 100 MW of floating solar capacity by 2030 and 500 MW by 2035.

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The Netherlands is a hotbed for the development of utility scale floating PV systems and recently several offshore projects have been launched. These include a scheme under development by a consortium formed by local research institute Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN); the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO); the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN); the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, PJSC (TAQA); and a Dutch start-up specializing in the development of floating systems for renewable energy at sea, Oceans of Energy.

The latter operates a pilot, 8.5 kW offshore solar project in the North Sea which is set to be expanded to 50 kW for a year-long testing phase. The plan is to subsequently expand the site to 1 MW and, eventually, 100 MW.

Furthermore, the TNO is studying the impact of wind and waves on the performance of floating solar systems at a special testing facility at Oostvoornse, a lake that is located near Maasvlakte, an artificial extension of the Europoort industrial facility at the Port of Rotterdam.

Recently, scientists from the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have claimed offshore PV plants could be more productive than ground-mounted arrays after running a simulation comparing a North Sea project to a conventional system at the Utrecht Photovoltaic Outdoor Test field.

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