Europe’s energy giants are exploring the potential of floating solar panels

Floating solar panels in the Netherlands. A number of large energy companies are exploring the possibility of combining floating solar panels with other energy sources.

Misha Keyser | Image Source | Getty Images

German energy firm RWE is investing in a pilot project to deploy floating solar technology in the North Sea as part of a broader collaboration to develop “floating solar parks”.

A pilot project called Merganser, which will be installed in the waters off Ostend, Belgium, will have a peak power of 0.5 megawatts or MW. In a statement earlier this week, RWE said Merganser would be the first offshore pilot for the Dutch-Norwegian firm SolarDuck.

RWE stated that Merganser will provide both itself and SolarDuck with “important first-hand experience in one of the most challenging offshore environments in the world.”

Lessons learned during the project will accelerate the commercialization of the technology from 2023, the company added.

RWE described the SolarDuck system as being based on a design that allows the solar panels to “float” meters above the water and glide “like a carpet” over the waves.

Learn more about energy from CNBC Pro

The long-term goal of the collaboration is for the SolarDuck technology to be used in a larger demonstration project at the yet-to-be-built Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm, which RWE is currently tendering.

In a statement, RWE said that “the integration of offshore floating solar power into an offshore wind farm” was “a more efficient use of ocean space for energy production.”

The idea of ​​combining wind and sun is not unique to RWE. The Hollandse Kust wind farm (north), which will also be located in the North Sea, also plans to deploy a floating solar technology demonstration.

CrossWind, a consortium operating on Hollandse Kust (North), is a joint venture between Eneco and shell.

Earlier this month, the Portuguese energy company Electronic data processing opened a 5 MW floating solar park in Alqueva. He described the park of nearly 12,000 photovoltaic panels as “the largest reservoir in Europe”.

According to EDP, the project will combine solar power and hydroelectric power from the dam in Alqueva. There are also plans to install a battery storage system.

All of the above projects are based on the idea of ​​”hybridization”, in which different renewable energy technologies and systems are brought together on the same site.

In comments posted last week, EDP CEO Miguel Stilwell d’Andrade said “betting on hybridization by combining electricity produced from water, solar, wind and storage” represents “a logical growth path.”

He added that EDP will continue to invest in hybridization as it optimizes resources and allows the company to generate cheaper energy.