When the Dutch start-up SolarDuck developed an innovative floating solar platform for the production of off-shore and near-shore energy, it required proven development partners for a pilot project to prove the concept. Enter DSM (and its Endurance D15 backsheet) and Chint Group, owner of module manufacturer, Astronergy.
Koen Burgers of SolarDuck with partners Imco Goudswaard (DSM) and Mark van Rij (Chint) – seen here getting ready to ‘test the water’ in solar floating.
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Imagine a solar park that floats? Floating solar has enormous potential – especially when serving megacities with high power demand and limited space; or large and remote island communities. It’s the ideal solution for a world with limited space on land.
However, creating floating solar platforms that are both financially viable and physically resilient (to wind and waves) – is one of the next big challenges facing the solar industry. Enter SolarDuck, a Dutch startup that has created a unique triangular (16x16x16-meter) floating solar platform that elevates the PV modules and all associated electricals some three meters above the water level. “With these triangles we set the standard to build utility-scale offshore floating solar plants,” says its CEO Koen Burgers.
Since April 2021, the company has been running a pilot in the Dutch province of Gelderland with the aim of deploying its first full off-shore PV plant on the Waal (a major waterway connecting Rotterdam to Germany).
This involves SolarDuck linking four of its floating platforms together (each containing 39 solar panels) to create a ‘super platform’ with an installed capacity of 65 kW – using solar technology from DSM and module manufacturer Astronergy.
DSM first heard about SolarDuck via an internal innovation project focused on serving megacities. We were impressed with its marine science-based approach and realized this project presents an ideal opportunity to showcase and prove the moisture-resistant properties of the Endurance backsheet D15, launched in November 2020.
The product was launched in direct response to customer requests for an ‘all-rounder’-type product that not only protects the balance sheet but also delivers all-purpose protection against all kinds of threats - including moisture.
Since then, this backsheet has not only proven successful with customers but also with the renowned independent solar evaluator, DuraMAT (otherwise known as the Durable Module Materials Consortium) – which is putting the technology through its paces and giving it the thumbs up.
“We saw this as the ideal opportunity to maximize the performance potential of our D15,” explains Imco Goudswaard, DSM Solar Sustainability and NBD manager. “To date, glass-coated solar modules have been favored for floating applications because of the obvious strong barrier properties. But glass is increasingly expensive, it’s heavy and sometimes suffers stresses – and it has a higher carbon footprint due to the CO2 emitted in the melting process during production. We therefore saw real opportunity to pair our backsheet with a likeminded module maker who could produce a lightweight, robust solution.”
So Imco contacted Astronergy, a Chinese module maker, through Chint’s solar PV development business in The Netherlands.
With a strong vision for floating solar and solar innovation in general, Chint/Astronergy was an ideal partner for the pilot project - and will supply four different kinds of solar modules including both glass-glass and glass-backsheet technology.
“Because it doesn’t compete with agriculture like conventional solar parks, floating solar offers major opportunities - but also challenges of course,” explains Mark van Rij, Chint’s Head of Business for the Netherlands. “We know that offshore and near-shore solutions need to be extremely strong and durable – and of course that brings cost. For example, maintenance and mooring systems can be prohibitively expensive. However, SolarDuck has a promising solution and the only way we will overcome these challenges is to test-drive the technology and learn from it.”
Hence the pilot partners will be looking closely at how the platform performs while identifying all the parameters that will bring cost down – including the cost of the solar power itself, the system cost, and of course backsheet cost and performance.
In addition, floating solar could create new revenue ‘streams’ – for example, hydrogen production – which could be collected directly offshore from the solar platform itself and used in the shipping sector.
It all adds up to a watershed opportunity for developing clean, affordable energy for all.
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