Netherlands Dutch engineers build world’s biggest sun-seeking solar farm

The 15 floating solar islands will possess sunflower-like ability to turn to face the sun

 ZoW5 Photograph: Floating Solar

Dutch engineers are building what will be the world’s largest archipelago of islands made up of sun-tracking solar panels.

Growing resistance to the construction of wind turbines or fields of solar panels on land has led the renewable energy industry to look for alternative options. Large islands of solar panels are under construction or already in place in reservoirs and lakes across the Netherlands, China, the UK and Japan.

In a development that is to become the largest of its type in the world, construction will begin this year on 15 solar islands on the Andijk reservoir in north Holland. The islands, containing 73,500 panels, will have the sunflower-like ability to move to face the light.

The first phase of the project, involving three islands, each of which will be 140 metres in diameter, is due to be finished by November, once the migratory season for birds has come to an end.

Arnoud van Druten, the managing director of Floating Solar, a solar panel supplier, said: “We would like to have started earlier but because of the environmental issues regarding bird seasons, there is only a limited period in the year, these three months, that we can put anything in the water.”

Along with a second project at Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam, which will involve static solar panels, the water company PWN, which owns the land on which the farms will be located, is expected to create enough energy to power 10,000 households.

Van Druten said: “The sun-tracking system involves three buoys for anchoring with cable around it, which turns the island and at the same time keeps the island together. It ensures the island is turned towards the sun.

“You can have two options: one is tracking automatically to the light. But because the position of the sun is not expected to change too much in the coming years, an algorithm can be easily programmed.”

Another feature of the islands is that they can reposition themselves in extreme weather to minimise damage.

“Andijk is a very severe environment,” Van Druten said. “So we have optimal solar tracking, which is generating extra energy, and weather risk management [WRM], which is a technology that makes sure that if an island is under severe pressure due to wind or storms, it moves itself automatically in a position so the wind and waves travel easily through the island.

“We have already tested that the system can sustain, without WRM, wind speeds of around 60mph.”

Solar panels under construction
The islands will contain 73,500 panels. Photograph: Floating Solar

To avoid damaging the reservoir’s ecosystems, half its surface area will be covered by the islands. The added benefit of floating solar panels is that the water cools the electrical wiring.

“There is a lot of pressure from pressure environmental groups about wind turbines, so the alternative to land is water. But what does it do to the water quality?” Van Druten said. “Our design has the least impact on the ecosystem as possible so the water quality remains almost the same.

“At the same time, because the island is moving, we don’t have a fixed shadow shape.”

Critics of floating solar farms say they are ugly and reflect the light, disturbing nearby communities. But Van Druten said the fusion of light on the water created a blurring effect that made the panels disappear from afar.


Renewable energy jobs surge thanks to solar PV



Shift to renewable energy

Master plan calls for drastic expansion of solar, wind power

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has announced a draft of the country’s long-term energy master plan which calls for expanding the portion of renewable power sources to 30 percent to 35 percent by 2040. If the draft is finalized as planned, the portion will increase significantly from 7.6 percent in 2017.

The third basic energy plan tells us that the country cannot sit on its hands unless it wants to lag far behind advanced economies which are adamant to increase the use of renewable energy. Still Korea’s target falls short of a prediction by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that renewable sources will account for 40 percent of the total global energy supply in 2040.

However, some industry experts point out that Korea’s plan will be far more difficult to achieve than that of any other countries. The reason is because we have the natural environment unfavorable to solar and wind power and the unique structure of energy demand.

According to official statistics, coal represented 41.9 percent of the country’s electricity generation last year, followed by nuclear with 23.4 percent and LNG with 26.8 percent. In order to reduce the emissions of find dust and greenhouse gases, the ministry has already vowed to cut down on power generation from coal by shutting down old facilities and banning new plants.

In many respects, the reduction of the coal-fired power plants is a step in the right direction. Yet it is not easy to pick up the slack to be created by the curtailment. The government plans to increase electricity generation from LNG which will require more costs due to high prices of imports.

As for renewable sources, the government needs to drastically increase investment in harnessing solar and wind power as well as hydrogen. This is easier said than done. The authorities therefore should work out detailed plans to expand clean and safe energy sources.

Making matters more complicated, President Moon Jae-in’s nuclear phase-out policy makes it harder to meet energy demand without resorting to thermal power generation. The Moon government says it can achieve the policy without hiking utility charges. But policymakers appear to be out of touch with
the stark reality that a nuclear phase-out will eventually raise the cost of power generation.

Together with massive investment, the government should reform the structural problems of energy overconsumption. Korea, the world’s 12th-largest economy in terms of GDP, is the eighth-largest consumer of energy. Ninety-four percent of energy sources such as oil come from imports.

Also important is to develop renewable power generation as the nation’s new growth engine. We have to make all-out efforts to cut our dependency on fossil fuels and shift to renewable sources. The sooner, the better.




The days of affordable solar panels are numbered – here’s why

Solar panel prices

The rising demand for solar panels is driving up silver prices globally. That’s the consensus from a new study by researchers from the University of Kent, and they say the days of affordable solar panels may be numbered.

Each solar panel produced typically requires approximately 20 grams of silver, adding up to about 6U& of the cost of manufacture, thanks to silver’s high conductivity of heat and electricity .

Researchers studied quarterly silver prices, and compared them to historical data on solar production and installed solar capacity between 1990 and 2016. They found a correlation between the data sets that indicates a causal relationship.

The team noted that should silver prices continue to rise, the cost of solar panels would increase too, potentially making panels much more expensive, and suggested further subsidisation to encourage adoption in the future.

Iraklis Apergis, lead author of the report said: “The research shows that silver price rises are directly linked to the increase in demand for solar panels.

“This will likely have major implications for the longer-term use of solar panels and may require new alternative technologies to ensure solar panel production is cost-effective or government subsidies.”

If solar panels are likely to get more expensive, you may be glad to know they’re possibly set to last longer, thanks to new research by
Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany. We have the scoop here.




Green energy jobs are better-paid but lack diversity

Adapted from Brookings; Chart: Axios Visuals
Show less

Employment in low-carbon energy fields is better-paid than average jobs and is widely available to workers without college degrees, a new Brookings Institution analysis shows.

But, but, but: These sectors — clean energy production, efficiency, and environmental management — are “dominated” by men, skew older, and some lack racial diversity, the study finds.

Why it matters: The report provides a highly granular look at the workforce characteristics in fast-growing, low-carbon energy sectors that already employ several million people combined.

  • It arrives amid the political rise of the Green New Deal — a concept that marries huge investments in clean energy with a goal of ensuring that marginalized communities share the benefits.

Here are a few top-line findings:

    • The wage difference is real. Check out the chart above. “The hourly differences between a clean energy economy occupation and one elsewhere in the economy can equate to a raise between 8 and 19 percent, if not more,” the study states.


    • You often don’t need advanced degrees. “Workers with no more than a high school diploma fill over half of all energy efficiency occupations, while 45 percent of workers in clean energy production occupations share this distinction.”


  • Inclusion is a problem. As of 2016, less than 20% of workers in clean energy production and efficiency were women. African Americans have a smaller share of jobs in those 2 sectors than in the overall economy, although it’s above the national average in environmental management.

What’s next: The report lays out recommendations — some built on what’s already happening — for how to make these industries more inclusive, train younger people, and generally help policymakers, educational institutions and businesses prepare the workforce. These include…

    • “Modernizing and emphasizing” energy science curricula at all schooling levels, such as programs now available for 2-year associates’ degrees in efficiency and renewables.


    • Regional initiatives and public-private collaboration on job training and aligning education with local clean energy industries.


  • Expanded efforts to reach underrepresented workers and students for recruitment and training. For instance, they cite the tech-focused Black Girls Code program as a model.

The bottom line: “This is a very accessible blue/green collar sector in many respects — widely distributed in both red and blue places, accessible to an inordinate number of people who don’t have a college degree, and a genuine opportunity for all kinds of workers,” co-author Mark Muro said.

  • But Muro, an expert in industrial transitions, also told Axios: “We won’t just naturally get a more diverse clean energy workforce. It is going to require active effort.”