Solar energy critics often argue that solar farms require the destruction of large tracts of prime farmland. However, innovative cleantech solutions are addressing these concerns.

One of the latest developments involves using floating offshore solar panels in tandem with offshore wind farms. SolarDuck, a Dutch-Norwegian cleantech company, is actively testing such a system.

While floating solar panels have gained traction in inland waters for their ability to reduce evaporation and prevent harmful algae blooms, deploying them in open ocean environments presents new challenges. These challenges include saltwater corrosion, constant exposure to waves and wind, and severe storms.

SolarDuck’s contribution to the offshore floating solar industry is a modular, triangular platform that can be interconnected to form large hexagonal solar arrays (such as the one pictured above). SolarDuck addresses the challenges of saltwater corrosion by using offshore-grade aluminum that lasts for over 30 years.

The SolarDuck approach also aims to minimize the impact of waves. It does this by placing solar panels on floating platforms rather than directly on the water’s surface. This not only reduces the risk of micro-cracks but also helps prevent salt accumulation on the panels.

Additionally, a slight tilt of 10 degrees facilitates rainwater cleaning.

The modular platforms are designed to provide flexibility in wavy conditions. Meanwhile, the layout of the solar panels is optimized to decrease wind loads.

Last year, SolarDuck partnered with offshore wind developer RWE to test its solar panels in the North Sea. If successful, the next phase will involve a 5-megawatt demonstration project at the Hollandse Kust West VII offshore wind farm in the Dutch North Sea.

If the test is successful, the company’s technology could expand globally.

According to CleanTechnica, integrating solar panels with wind farms allows for more efficient utilization of ocean space and cost-sharing in construction and maintenance. This could make offshore wind farms more economically viable in regions with lower wind speeds. Improving the economic viability of offshore wind is particularly important in light of recent surges in project costs.

Floating solar panels have the ability to provide almost unlimited amounts of clean energy. A report published earlier this year found that Indonesia alone could generate 35,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy through offshore solar. This is more than the world’s current electricity production.

Image Source: MaREI