Floating Solar – Floating on Sunshine
We take a look at an ambitious project to build the world’s largest floating solar island with sun-tracking technology.
Floating Solar is currently working to build the world’s largest floating solar island with sun-tracking technology on the Andijk Reservoir. It is a simple, but ingenious idea. By placing the island on a body of water, it can turn with relative ease so that its panels are always facing the sun, picking up the maximum possible amount of solar energy.
“We are an innovative company that only started 2017,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Kees-Jan van der Geer.
The company’s customer, the local drinking water company, was looking to expand its renewable energy generation capacity. Covering the available water reservoirs partly with solar panels seemed an obvious choice however, potential negative ecological effects needed to be taken into consideration. Even before addressing the issue of ecology and the scale of the project, the location near the IJsselmeer (former Zuiderzee) with occasionally heavy weather circumstances, was also offering plenty of engineering challenges. Floating Solar came up with an innovative solution: an island part covered with solar panels that follows the path of the sun.
Tracking the Sun
“It’s unique because it’s a full island that is tracking the sun. We can turn the whole island as the sun moves across the sky. Another part of the project’s unicity is that the island is very open. Some light can go along the panels and through the island into the water,” van der Geer says, talking about the island’s OST – Optimal Solar Tracking system that allows the panels to follow the sun during the day. “The island’s shadow places also vary as the day progresses allowing light to pass through almost the entire water surface on which the island is built”.
The floating and tracking nature of the solar island also helps it to survive other hazards. It boasts Weather Risk Management – so when the wind is up, the island can turn and move the islands to a different (protective) angle. “The island is constructed so that it can float over the waves, so it is not working against the waves but with them.”
“Tracking systems are somewhat more expensive than static alternatives, but we believe that the increased costs are more than compensated by the higher output derived from tracking the sun’s position in an optimal way.”
Of course, even now there are still technical challenges, and Floating Solar is having to engage in close collaboration to make the most of the latest innovations.
One technical challenge that is particularly pressing is that the solar island’s location, in a reservoir for drinking water, means that any materials or components used must be of the highest possible standards.
We work with drinking water specialists to make sure our materials will not have a negative impact on water quality,” van der Geer says.
The ensure that all materials and components are of the required standard, Floating Solar has built close relationships with their key supply partners.
“We have to work closely with all suppliers. We have very experienced people around us and we have lots of contact with all our suppliers,” van der Geer says. “
Of course, as well as finding great partners, it is also essential the Floating Solar has the best people within the company. Fortunately, they are working in a field that is attracting a great deal of talent right now.
“People are interested in this new technology in the renewable energy space, so they come to us,” van der Geer says.
Pull Quote: “We work with drinking water specialists to make sure our materials will not have a negative impact on water quality.”