Netherlands Planning a Massive Solar Energy Farm at Sea

Armed with a nine-member consortium, the government of the Netherlands hopes to successfully develop one of the world’s largest floating solar energy farm.

Netherlands Planning a Massive Solar Energy Farm at Sea

The Netherlands seems to be proving once again its serious commitment to finding sustainable energy solutions. A floating solar energy farm, the first of its kind in the world, is being developed in the country.

Oceans of Energy, a Netherlands-based company that sets up floating systems offshore for clean energy generation, will be developing the plant, named Project Solar-at-Sea. Oceans of Energy founder and CEO Allaard van Hoeken said of the historical project: “What we will do in this project has not been done before and is exceptional. Solar farms are already being deployed at inshore water bodies such as lakes, but a project at sea has never been done before as this is much more challenging. The destructive wind, and wave, forces at sea cause others to be [hesitate]. With the competencies of the project partners and building further on the expertise of the Dutch offshore industry, we are convinced that we will be successful.”

A few details about the project:

The project will receive $1.48 million in government funding support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate’s Netherlands Enterprise Agency for the next three years, with Energy-Innovation Manager Frank Witte citing its “high potential for replicability” and potential to allow “oil and gas production platforms to become more sustainable”.

A pilot project for assessing the feasibility of the plan (including equipment, weather conditions, and environmental impact) will include roughly 30m2 of solar panels located about 14.5km from the testing zone in The Hague in the North Sea Farm.

"By starting now to bring solar at sea to reality, we expect to create a positive and lasting impact worldwide." - Van Hoeken

There will be a consortium of nine organizations, from Utrecht University who will conduct sustainability research, to the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands (MARIN), who will carry out independent research on behalf of the Dutch government. The others, mostly companies in the energy sector, will include: TNO, TAQA, TKI Urban Energy, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, ECN, and of course Oceans of Energy.

The end goal is to have 2,500 square meters of solar panels in place by 2021.

So far, Utrecht University solar power expert Wilfried van Sark has indicated that at during some periods the panels will be underwater, adding that “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.” While overall optimistic, his statement merely suggests that more research and testing need to be done, which the consortium should take care of.

Civil Engineering

The Netherland's Billion Dollar Sea Wall

Looking towards the future of sustainable energy, van Hoeken shared his thoughts on how he believes this project will be a roadmap for many other offshore solar energy farms in the years to come:

“Offshore floating solar is a product that fits well with Dutch offshore competencies and expertise. This will be a solution for the entire world, as the majority of the Earth’s population is concentrated in coastal regions.”