Norwegian energy major Equinor, in collaboration with Saipem company Moss Maritime, plans to build and test a pilot floating solar plant off Frøya in Norway in the late summer of 2021.

The potential look of the floating solar pilot plant (Courtesy of Moss Maritime)
The potential look of the floating solar pilot plant (Courtesy of Moss Maritime)

The project is set to become the world’s first pilot plant
for floating solar power in rough waters, according to Equinor.

The company has filed an application with the Norwegian
Water Resources and Energy Directorate for a plant planned to measure 80 m x 80
m, and tower less than 3 metres over the sea surface.

The purpose of the pilot plant is not primarily to see how
much energy it can produce, but how the weather conditions affect the plant,
Equinor noted.

The Norwegian coast and continental shelf are world-class
when it comes to oil, gas and wind, but when it comes to sun, other regions
offer better conditions. As a test area, Frøya is still very suitable.

According to the plans, the pilot will be tested for minimum one year.

Hanne Wigum, head of the Equinor technology unit focusing on wind and solar power (Courtesy of Equinor)
Hanne Wigum, head of the Equinor technology unit focusing on wind and solar power (Courtesy of Equinor)

Hanne Wigum, head of the Equinor technology unit focusing on wind and solar power, said: “The municipality of Frøya has been a good collaboration partner for us. We have reached an agreement with the grid owner, allowing the electricity that is produced to enter the power grid on Frøya. In addition, the nearness to our research centre in Trondheim, and the expertise possessed by the Sintef and NTNU research institutions, represent an advantage for us”.

Frøya mayor, Kristin Furunes Strømskag, said: “It is very exciting that Frøya has been chosen as the host municipality for the testing of new renewable energy sources, such as solar power. With our natural conditions, we are a good location for a full-scale pilot plant within research and development”.

The pilot plant will be an important milestone for Moss Maritime as well, which already performed model testing on its innovative floating solar park earlier in 2020, which could be used for the collaborative project with Equinor. Worth noting, Moss Maritime is part of Saipem’s XSIGHT division.

Alexander Thøgersen, vice president for engineering at Moss Maritime, said: “We have been working on this concept for the past three years, most recently through our partnership with Equinor, and the concept has been substantially matured, both technically and economically.

“The floating pilot plant will be an important step on the road towards technology commercialization, and an important arena for further development and optimization of the concept”.

This is the third research project that Equinor is involved
in. Equinor is already involved in a project off Sri Lanka, where a concept in
calm waters is being tested to decide how to produce as much energy as
possible.

In addition, Equinor is involved in a project in the Netherlands where different floating solar power concepts are being tested on a lake. This provides important knowledge about the resilience and predictability of production under rougher conditions than in other current production sites for floating solar power, Equinor said.

“We choose to perform several research projects in parallel because of the rapid growth within renewable energy. This enables us to acquire optimal knowledge about this as early as possible”, Wigum said.

According to Equinor, the company has not made any decision
on the production of power from floating photovoltaic panels, besides the
research projects.

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