Belgium and the Netherlands will investigate floating solar panels in the sea

Floating solar installations give existing wind farms the opportunity to produce additional power, but the technology is still in its infancy.

The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Jan de Nul’s group are investigating the environmental impact of floating solar panels at sea. The Netherlands will also invest €2.8 million in research into the potential of floating solar panels.

There is a growing need for renewable energy, but there is also a growing shortage of land for solar panels and wind turbines. This is why people are looking to the sea, so far mainly for wind farms, but solar panels can also be promising.

“With this project, important steps are also being taken to be able to correctly estimate the environmental impact of floating solar panels.”

The integration of floating solar installations into wind farms is particularly promising, as it gives existing wind farms the opportunity to produce additional energy, which is often supplementary. However, the technology is still in its infancy and much research remains to be done on potential environmental effects.

This is why the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) has placed three pilot facilities on the edge of the Mermaid wind farm in the North Sea. The modules were designed and developed by the Jan De Nul Group in collaboration with RBINS, and supported by the European Center for Marine Biological Resources.

Holland

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) also announced an investment of more than 2.8 million euros in research into a “sustainable future” for floating solar panels and the technological, environmental and social conditions required for this.

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“The transition from fossil to green energy is urgently needed to combat climate change and preserve biodiversity worldwide, but also to secure domestic energy production for the Netherlands,” says the project leader. Sven Terlinks. “This requires a significant increase in solar panels.”

colonization

The Belgian researchers will investigate, among other things, the effects of the panels on the ‘underwater field of light’, on waves and the carbon cycle. Scientists also want to know if there are positive effects of colonizing animals and fish. They will stay in the water for a year and a half and will be checked regularly to monitor the colonization process.

The chosen site resembles the Princess Elisabeth Zone (PEZ) as closely as possible, which has been designated as a new offshore renewable energy production zone. The focus is still mainly on offshore wind power, but the combination with floating solar panels is promising.

“With this project, important steps are being taken to be able to correctly estimate the environmental impact of floating solar panels,” says Vincent van Quickenborn, Minister for the North Sea.

‘this is important. The potential of floating solar panels is estimated to be high. If we want to use them on a commercial scale later, it is also necessary to take into account their effects on the marine environment in order to avoid or mitigate them as much as possible. Belgium shows once again that the economy and the environment go hand in hand.

Megan Vasquez

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