A Dutch startup has been awarded a contract to install floating solar panels at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea.
Oceans of Energy secured the contract from CrossWind, a joint venture between Shell and Eneco. The renewable energy startup has been tasked with building a 0.5MW floating array between wind turbines at the 750MW Hollands Kust Noord wind farm, located 18.5km off the coast of the Netherlands.
According to the startup, which was founded in 2016 by Dutch engineer and entrepreneur Allard van Hoeken, this would be the first offshore solar farm in the world to be connected, installed, and operated within a wind farm in “high-wave conditions”.
The solar panels will be situated in between the offshore wind turbines, providing backup power on sunnier but less windy days. The panels will be moored to the wind turbines and connected to the same cables, transporting energy efficiently to end users.
Van Hoeken says the project “will function as an example for combined offshore wind and solar parks in the future.”
The solar array will provide energy for around 500 households once it links up to the Dutch electric grid in 2025, two years after the wind farm comes online.
Until now the startup has mainly relied on subsidies from the Dutch government, of which it has raised €20m to date. Financial details of the new contract with CrossWind, however, were not disclosed.
Oceans of Energy built a slightly larger array in 2019 which it has been using to test the technology and its ability to withstand some of the roughest seas on Earth. The rig is still operational despite being hit by some pretty severe storms over the last few years.
Researchers from Utrecht University have closely monitored energy production at the pilot array, located around 15km off the coast of The Hague, at a testing zone known as the North Sea Farm.
“In addition to removing the problem of a land shortage, there are several other benefits to building at sea, similar to those in wind energy,” solar energy expert Wilfried van Sark at Utrecht University, who is involved in the project, told Reuters. “There is more sun at sea and there is the added benefit of a cooling system for the panels, which boosts output by up to 15%,” he said.
According to Dutch research organisation TNO, 200 gigawatts of solar power is expected to be generated in the Netherlands by 2050, 25 of which will be on inland waters and 45 at sea. This is expected to open up many opportunities for Oceans of Energy and other budding startups like SolarDuck, a Norwegian-Dutch venture that is currently building an even bigger floating solar array in the North Sea.
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