Ocean Sun calls for faster floating PV permitting, eyes utility-scale projects

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A floating solar test system installed by Ocean Sun off the coast of Norway. Image: Ocean Sun.

Floating solar system provider Ocean Sun is preparing to scale up the utility-scale deployment of its technology as its management calls for more regulatory frameworks to unlock the potential of the floating PV segment.

The company has created a floating power system that features solar panels mounted on a polymer membrane, with the innovation installed at a host of pilot projects in countries such as Albania and the Philippines.

The firm has already faced regulatory hurdles when looking to install its systems in its home market of Norway. “There’s a lot of different agencies getting involved that have never dealt with floating solar, so it takes years. That has to be fixed,” said chief commercial officer Alexander Telje.

With the European Union ramping up its solar deployment targets, Telje has called on governments to speed up permitting to accelerate floating solar deployment across Europe. “It’s not the money, it’s not the project, it’s actually the regulatory framework that holds us back,” he told PV Tech.

The EU’s Solar Energy Strategy, published earlier this month alongside its REPowerEU plan, calls for the bloc to “radically step up a gear” in terms of solar deployment and reach 740GWdc installed by 2030.

With the expansion in utility-scale PV projects increasingly facing competing uses of land and public acceptance challenges, the solar strategy notes the potential for “innovative forms of deployment” such as agrivoltaics and floating solar.

“Offshore solar installations represent a great potential,” the strategy reads, while it also highlighted the possibility of using the surface of artificial lakes created by hydroelectric dams for deploying floating PV.

Co-locating floating solar with hydropower “is a no-brainer because the whole system then operates like a battery”, Telje said.

Ocean Sun last year installed a 500kW floating PV project at a hydropower plant in Albania owned by Norwegian energy giant Statkraft as part of a collaboration that will result in 2MWp of floating solar deployed at the site.

After completing an initial public offering in 2020 to secure capital to fund its growth, Ocean Sun has increased its focus on project development in a range of geographies as it streamlines its supply chain to help it move from smaller systems to utility scale.

A partnership with developer MP Quantum Group will see the pair aim to deploy multiple floating solar installations in Greece and Cyprus in the coming years.

As well as system design verifications by DNV, Ocean Sun has carried out tests with TÜV Rheinland and GCL System Integration Technology in which the latter’s panels are submerged in salt water in order to secure warranties and guarantees. “For insurance and bankability, these things need to be in place,” Telje said.

He added that Ocean Sun is reaching the position to increase module procurement from tier-one manufacturers and install more utility-scale plants. “I think we’re going to see quite a leap in terms of the rollout.”

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