Solar on the water: DNV's floating offshore solar fields


By: SGN Staff

The researchers at DNV aren't afraid to reach for the sky, or the ocean, or both at the same time. The risk management services company has come up with an extremely detailed concept for what it describes as a "dynamic floating offshore solar field."


The concept, called SUNdy, features a hexagonal PV array that floats on the ocean surface. A collection of the arrays (a total of 4,200 solar panels) creates a large solar island about the size of a large football stadium and capable of generating 2 megawatts of power. Connecting several islands together could produce 50 megawatts or more, enough power for 30,000 people.


"The renewable energy market is rapidly changing due in main part to climate change, soaring global demand for electricity, and scarcity of fossil fuels. For DNV, technological innovation is a key element in our strategy to help address these concerns and SUNdy, as an example of our research work, can help illustrate future applications for solar as a truly sustainable resource,” says Bjørn Tore Markussen, Chief Operational Officer for DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability Asia. "Indeed, renewable energy is becoming increasingly important in nations across the globe, including Asia, and with such a readily available and abundant source that is rapidly approaching grid parity levels, it’s solar power that’s attracting a lot of interest in this part of the world.”


The SUNdy concept seems less strange when you find out the solar panels are flexible thin-film panels that are much lighter than glass-based panels. That lets them flex and move on the ocean's surface, explained Sanjay Kuttan, managing director for DNV's Clean Technology Centre in Singapore. "The key to creating an ocean-based structure of this size is the use of a tension-only design. Rather like a spider's web, this dynamic, compliant structure yields to the waves, but is capable of withstanding considerable external loads acting upon it."


Another bonus of the concept is that the arrays could be separated into prefabricated sections which would allow for large-scale manufacturing and easier assembly offshore. The island's design is intended to both maximize solar capability and cabling efficiency too. Another feature is that electrical transmission lines connect at the central island, joining the other islands together in series to create a closed loop that continues on to the onshore electric substation.


Markussen also noted that the SUNdy concept could offer a significant and practical solution for Asian countries with large populations and power demands, particularly coastal megacities where there is little opportunity for rooftop solar installations and other urban environments.

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