Dutch developer secures funds for flexible floating solar pilot in North Sea


Bluewater Energy Services, a Dutch engineering consultancy, plans to build an offshore floating solar project in the North Sea with flexible thin-film PV modules and floaters.

“The system consists of multiple individual floaters moored to a shared mooring grid,” the company says on its website, noting that the floaters are made of flexible, air-filled double-wall fabric. “Under low overpressure, this double wall fabric combines excellent local floater stability and with such a low global stiffness that the floater can easily follow the wave profile.”

The company was awarded the demonstration project by the Dutch government’s Renewable Energy Transition (HER+) fund. The concept was first demonstrated in a small-scale pilot project on Oostvoornse Meer, a lake near Rotterdam.

The proof-of-concept project consisted of two floaters measuring 7 meters by 13 meters, topped with 20 kW solar panels. The flexible thin-film PV modules were developed by a consortium led by TNO, a Dutch research institute.

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The flexible floating solar technology reportedly offers less wave resistance, facilitating the use of lighter floaters and anchoring. The lighter materials are potentially cheaper than the materials used for rigid floats.

“Due to the expense of material used for heavy, rigid floats, it is often difficult to make these systems economically viable,” said TNO researcher Wim Soppe. “This new concept requires a lot less material and we therefore have high hopes that it will turn out to be a lot cheaper.”

If the offshore pilot project is successful, the team plans to build a commercial system ranging in size from 1 MW to 5 MW at a wind farm in the North Sea by 2024.

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