Convention has been tested in Sweden and in the UK as floating wind and solar energy plants have made a splash. This exciting new technology could spark a ripple effect to housing major energy generating facilities out at sea, reducing demand for land.
Swedish Wind Energy Plan
Although singular wind turbines have been erected out at sea in the last five years, Hexicon, a Swedish energy firm, is planning on building the first multi-turbine platform in UK waters.
Not only will this project potentially open new wind energy locations but it is believed that, at current depths, multi-turbine platforms will be cheaper and more productive than the existing fixed facilities.
The exact power to be generated from this plant is not yet confirmed but construction is to start in 2017, to be operational for 2018.
Hexicon’s proposed wind energy platform NCE
UK’s First Floating Solar Energy Plant
On the surface of a reservoir in Berkshire now lies the fully installed solar panels of a floating energy facility. This 800-panel project cost £254,000 and will generate 200KW of energy.
How it works is that the panels are secured on floats which are all attached. The island is then anchored to the banks or to a steel anchor on the lake bed. It does all seem secure but admittedly, this technology is not yet suitable to any rough seas; instead it is best suited to calm, unused areas of water such as reservoirs.
Could this mean that your garden pond is going to be turned into a floating solar farm … probably not but theoretically it could happen … Image that!
UK’s first floating solar plant NCE
For the average carp fish that swim happily around the reservoir, who’s only danger was the clenches of a fishing line on a Sunday morning, life could now add another complication. Animal habitats would probably be damaged in the making of these projects and if an electric fault were to happen, could the water become electrified and kill its inhabitants?
CDEGS earthing software simulation on hydro-generation plants confirm that earth leakage of grounding arrangements into the surrounding water can and do affect certain fish who appear more sensitive to low level electrical discharges. For earthing (or grounding) design purposes, water is another form of soil… clearly, the resistivity of salt-water is much lower (c. 2 ohm.m) compared with land soil (c. 100 ohm.m), but the water’s role in an earthing design (i.e. earth return path) is the same, therefore, can be modelled in the same way.
Similarly with HV wind farms in the sea, earthing will need to be an essential element of the design process.
The prospects of these project are outstanding though and the wave of development which may come from this advancement could pave the way for fascinating, life enhancing facilities. Our own lives may even be made safer by housing our energy generating facilities away from homes and out at sea.
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Written by: Niall Cardwell, GreyMatters