Floating solar tech for harsh offshore conditions


An international research group has developed a new concept for floating photovoltaics that can purportedly withstand wave heights above 10 meters under harsh environmental offshore conditions.

The system includes a lattice-shaped floating PV array with four solar panels arranged in a dual-pitch configuration. This design reduces shading and wind loads while maintaining a streamlined profile, according to the scientists. The floaters are connected with a low-carbon mooring system using tethers that combine elastomeric elements and synthetic ropes. Splitters are employed to link one mooring tether to multiple floating modules, providing structural capacity and reducing the need for additional mooring lines.

“The floating PV arrays are electrically linked to each other via the floating linkage formed by the standard floats,” the researchers explained. “The generated power will be transmitted to a floating transformer stationed on the side for easy access via boats.”

The research group conducted tests on a scaled model of an array, featuring two orientations: 25 degrees and 0 degrees. The tests were carried out under regular and irregular wave conditions. The scientists said the array exhibited excellent motion performance, and noted that the 0-degree orientation outperformed the 25-degree orientation in terms of smaller extreme motion responses and lower mooring tensions. The system also did not show any contact between adjacent modules and was able to follow the waves with limited wave overtopping, according to the researchers.

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“We have estimated the cost of the concept and are optimistic that it is more cost-effective than many other offshore floating concepts,” researcher Zhiyu Jiang told pv magazine.

The scientists introduced the new floating PV tech in “Design and model test of a soft-connected lattice-structured floating solar photovoltaic concept for harsh offshore conditions,” which was recently published in Marine Structures. The team includes academics from Norway's University of Agder, the Oslo Metropolitan University, the Polytechnic University of Madrid, the Offshore and Marine (LOOM) Research Institute in the United Kingdom, and Norwegian engineering group cDynamics AS.

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