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Norwegian researchers unveil concept for 50MW floating solar energy field

2MW solar islands will consist of 4,200 PV panels and array could be developed to power over 50MW of solar energy

DNV’s concept is the latest development for floating solar energy technology

Norwegian researchers have unveiled what is being described as a dynamic floating offshore solar field concept. The researchers at Norwegian risk management services firm DNV have developed the floating island concept which could power more than 50MW of solar energy.

Dubbed SUNdy, the core feature of the concept is a hexagonal solar energy array which floats on the sea surface. A collection of these arrays, totalling 4,200 solar panels, forms a solar island the size of a large football stadium, capable of generating 2MW of power. Multiple islands connected together make up a solar field of 50MW or more, producing enough electricity for 30,000 people.

The SUNdy concept is made possible using thin-film 560W solar panels. These are flexible and lighter than traditional rigid glass-based modules, which allows them to undulate with the ocean’s surface, said Sanjay Kuttan, managing director of the DNV Clean Technology Centre in Singapore.
 
He said: “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, yet is capable of withstanding considerable external loads acting upon it.”

Sound and sustainable

According to Kuttan separating the solar arrays into prefabricated sections allows for large scale manufacturing and streamlined assembly offshore. The cable grid provides for maintenance access in the form of floating gangways. Below the surface, the shape of the island is maintained by the tensile forces from the lengthy spread mooring.

“The island has been optimised for solar capability and cabling efficiency,” said Kevin Smith, global segment director for DNV KEMA’s renewable energy services. “The solar arrays are divided into electrical zones feeding electricity produced into two main switches collecting the power for voltage step up at a central transformer. From the offshore solar farm’s central island, 30kV electrical transmission lines connect, tying other islands in series to form a close loop and continue to the electrical sub-station onshore for grid connection.”

Bjørn Tore Markussen, chief operational officer for DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability Asia, said: “We firmly believe the SUNdy floating solar field concept offers sound and sustainable development prospects, particularly in Asia and the congested coastal megacities where there’s limited opportunity for rooftop solar power and urban areas which command premium prices for large-scale mounted solar production.”

The news from DNV is a recent example of how companies in Norway are working to move forward solar energy technology to benefit Asia. In August this year Norwegian company the Renewable Energy Association (REC) announced it will develop solar modules to improve PV manufacturing processes in Asia.