Could solar islands be the new offshore wind farms?

Global consultancy and certification firm DNV has unveiled designs for floating solar arrays that could rival offshore wind farms.

The plans envisage a group of hexagonal artificial islands linked together and supporting 4,200 solar photovoltaic panels across an area the size of a football stadium. Multiple islands connected together could then make up a solar field of 50MW or more, producing enough electricity for 30,000 people.

The concept, dubbed SUNdy, is made possible using 560W thin film solar panels, which are lighter and more flexible than traditional glass-based modules, allowing them to move with the waves on the sea’s surface.

DNV says separating the solar arrays into prefabricated sections allows for large-scale manufacturing and streamlined assembly offshore, while the cable grid provides for maintenance access in the form of floating gangways. Below the surface, the island is then kept in shape by lengthy spread mooring.

Bjørn Tore Markussen, chief operational officer at DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability Asia, said SUNdy allows even the most densely populated countries to power their economies with renewable energy.

“Many countries are turning to solar technology and renewable energy because of a need for alternative energy sources and environmental concerns,” he 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.”

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