RWE and the Dutch-Norwegian company SolarDuck have signed a collaboration agreement to develop the use of floating solar parks at sea. To accelerate the learnings on SolarDuck’s floating solar technology, RWE will invest in a first offshore pilot in the North Sea.

The project is a first step in the collaboration and lays the foundation for a larger demonstration project at the Dutch offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust West (HKW). RWE is tendering for this project, and has included SolarDuck into its bid with a highly innovative combination of offshore floating solar with integrated storage solutions.

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Floating solar between wind turbines

The integration of offshore floating solar into an offshore wind farm is a more efficient use of ocean space for energy generation (using the space between the wind turbines) and allows for synergies with regards to the construction and maintenance of the multi-source renewable energy plant. The result is a more balanced production profile due to the complementary nature of wind and solar resources.

Taking solar farms offshore requires a technology that can withstand rough offshore conditions, including high waves, strong winds and a corrosive environment. SolarDuck‘s triangular-shaped platform, which has received the world’s first certification for offshore floating solar by Bureau Veritas, is designed to float several metres above the water, following the waves like a carpet. Therefore, keeping critical electrical components dry, clean and stable, as well as securing the integrity of the semi-submersible structure while enabling safe operations and minimal maintenance.

Full-scale, offshore pilot in the North Sea

To accelerate the development of the technology, RWE will invest in SolarDuck’s full-scale offshore pilot called “Merganser” with a nameplate capacity of 0.5 MWp in 2023. Merganser is expected to be installed off the coast of Ostend in the Belgian North Sea and will be SolarDuck’s first offshore pilot following the successful deployment of an inland pilot in the Netherlands last year.

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Merganser will provide RWE and SolarDuck with important first-hand experience in one of the most challenging offshore environments in the world. These learnings will enable a faster commercialisation of the technology from 2023 onwards.

‘RWE is constantly looking for innovative ways to further improve the production of renewable energy offshore,’ says Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Wind Offshore of RWE Renewables. ‘We are very keen to further explore the potential of offshore floating solar together with our partner SolarDuck. For countries with lower mean wind speeds but high solar irradiation, this opens up attractive opportunities. With the SolarDuck pilot we are gaining experience with a highly innovative offshore floating solar technology.’

SolarDuck’s CEO Koen Burgers adds: ‘Showcasing SolarDuck’s robust technology in rough North Sea conditions will enable us to deploy the technology practically anywhere in the world. We are very pleased that we found in RWE a strong partner who shares our vision of electrifying the world with offshore floating solar.’

SolarDuck selected for RWE’s Hollandse Kust West bid

SolarDuck’s technology opens a new door for solar energy, also in the harsh North Sea environment. RWE has therefore selected SolarDuck in its bid for the Dutch tender for Hollandse Kust West (HKW) VII (system integration). A winning bid will realise the integration of an offshore floating solar plant at pre-commercial scale with 5 MWp combined with innovative energy storage solutions into the offshore wind farm.

Further building on the collaboration with project Merganser and HKW, RWE and SolarDuck will explore new opportunities with the objective to develop commercial offshore floating solar parks, both stand-alone and hybrid.

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