The first floating solar power plants will soon see the light of day offshore. The use of solar energy at sea has many advantages: valuable land areas can be freed up and it will be possible to use ocean areas that are of little use today.
In addition, water-based solar energy can give an additional boost to energy production, both because it increases the areas available for solar energy, but also because water provides natural cooling effect for solar panels. This effect provides increased efficiency and optimizes operation.
However, the development of water-based facilities is not without challenges. The installations must withstand dynamic conditions including waves, wind and currents, and at the same time, they must be competitive in terms of price. This is where engineers and scientists come in.
“Our role is to solve the challenges of the market by studying and testing the installations. The aim is to develop efficient and cost-effective technical solutions for solar energy, ”says Nuno Fonseca, senior researcher at SINTEF Ocean.
Recently, the Fonseca team performed a model test that shows that floating solar power plants can withstand a lot – perhaps so much that they can be launched far out to sea.
Experience through model testing
A report by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) points out that solar energy must be eight to ten times what it is today by 2030, if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
If we are to achieve the goals, we must challenge traditional solutions. Today, SINTEF researchers tested a 1:13 scale floating solar power plant model in the ocean basin. The project was commissioned by Moss Maritime and Equinor.
The model was fitted with sensors that collected information about waves, movements and loads at mooring and connection points. Moss Maritime used them to calibrate their digital model, which will later be used to design and optimize Equinor’s actual facilities.
“It was a special project for us. We have never tested a design with so many modules, ”says Galin Tachiev, researcher at SINTEF, who leads the model testing. “The model consists of a total of 64 floats which are connected to each other. The test has shown that we are well equipped to handle such complex installations. The collaboration between Moss Maritime and Equinor is innovative as it explores the possibility of install in vulnerable places. “
“The company has hundreds of years of experience with traditional marine structures, but this area is new, and model testing then becomes particularly important. There are complex systems with complex behavior. And model testing in the ocean basin allow us to produce reliable data for the behavior of construction under realistic conditions ”, explains Nuno Fonseca.
In SINTEF’s marine laboratory, researchers develop designs and build models of floating structures which are then tested under physical conditions. Here, waves, wind and currents can be simulated in real time. Data from model tests are used both to find avenues for improvement on floating installations and to verify numerical models – that is, data simulations of the same experiment.
This is important in order to be able to document the strength and safety of marine structures.
Take the offshore concept
“The collaboration between Moss Maritime and Equinor is innovative as it explores the possibility of settling in vulnerable places,” said Øyvind Helland, research director at SINTEF Ocean. “Today’s concepts are primarily designed for lakes and hydroelectric reservoirs, and many of them would be insufficient if exposed to waves.
SINTEF Ocean is also involved in the Equinor pilot plant for the floating sun off Frøya. The aim is to expand the pilot plant to become a large-scale research and development facility. Here, researchers will be able to work in close collaboration with SINTEF ACE and the future Ocean Space Center.
“One of the biggest advantages will be having several locations in close proximity, and that they complement each other. This is one of our strengths, ”says Øyvind Hellan.
The researchers wish to continue the technical work by testing models of floating solar structures in exposed areas at sea. In addition, the team will collaborate with colleagues who can look at societal aspects and the impact that the installations will have on. the environment.
“The Norwegian industry occupies a strong and unique position as a leader in renewable energy, offshore technology and maritime operations,” says Hellan.
This article is courtesy of SINTEF and can be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.