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#Solar panels must be installed everywhere!
Energy Energy Solar

In Huainan in China there are already solar panels on the water of a lake. It is the largest solar park in the world on the water. 
In order to harvest large-scale solar power, panels must be installed everywhere. On roofs and on the ground. Technicians now see new opportunities: solar panels floating in the sea and hidden in the motorway.
Man constructing solar panels on a roof
There is still free space on roofs, that is not the point. About 7 percent of the houses have cells on the roof. Then there are larger roofs, from schools, companies and warehouses. And do not forget the rental houses. Only 2.3 percent in the rental segment has solar panels. There were still opportunities for consumers, housing corporations and solar energy companies. But to give solar power a mega-scale, so that it can compete against fossil gas and coal energy, developers want more. Much more. At industrial sites and open fields, the first 'soil-bound' solar fields are already appearing, dozens of hectares. Space in the Netherlands is scarce. That yields fresh, innovative ideas.

1: Solar panels far in the sea
Chinese man constructing floating #solar panels

Constructing floating #solar panels.

The new consortium Oceans of Energy got an idea. If it gets tight on land with the construction of large solar parks, then we just move to the sea? The partnership is out for a world first, with the installation of a first floating 'solar farm' at sea. The participating energy companies Taqa and Oranje Nassau Energie believe in it. The knowledge institutes ECN, TNO and Marin, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands participate.
In the next three years, 2500 square meters of floating panels must appear, 15 kilometers off the coast from Scheveningen. That is a test. That solar cells can float, that is already certain. Small tests, such as on the dredging depot De Slufter in Rotterdam, already showed that solar panels can float on a light metal construction. In China they also do it, because gigantic solar installations cover the surface of lakes. But that is on stagnant water. Oceans of Energy now wants to lay the panels in the open sea. That has not been shown before.
The pilot floating PV system is being installed at De Slufter

The pilot floating PV system is being installed at De Slufter

It is hoped that they can cope with the 'destructive forces of nature' such as waves and currents, according to director Allard van Hoeken. If so, Oceans of Energy wants to lay down panels in many more places in the sea.
But wait a minute. The space on the North Sea is also scarce. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) warned last week: it is pushing at sea. More and more activities are being added. That can collide with shipping and fishermen, who also want to go their own way. Especially the construction of large new wind farms requires a very good planning according to the PBL. If the government is already thinking about the location for windmills that will be brought into the sea after 2030, there will be no conflict of interest. Good planning, that's the art.
That is what Oceans of Energy hopes to take advantage of. The initiative aims to place the solar panels in the sea between wind farms. An important advantage would be that a wind farm already has a power cable to land to transport the power. There an adjacent 'solar farm' can enjoy a nice ride on it. That saves work and costs. The ministry of economic affairs and climate feels a bit like such economies of scale and gives a 1.4 million euro subsidy. The project costs two million. The initiators of the 'Zon op Zee' project hope that energy production will be 15 percent higher than with solar panels on land. The brilliance of the sun on water can increase the yield, is the idea.
For marine life the floating solar panels would not be a threat. The water is cloudy, so blocking sunlight is not such a thing. In fact, the initiators expect that water plants and animals will attach to the bottom of the solar panels. Studies of windmills in the sea have also shown that algae are keen to exploit the underwater structure. That can attract shellfish and fish. By the way, that applies equally well to the legs of oil and gas platforms. The offshore solar fields are intended to push such fossil sources from the throne with cheap green energy in the future.

2: A motorway with cells in it
Constructing a #solar road
There is another idea for the production of solar energy, without having to surrender fields or other land. Solar cells can be tucked away in the road surface. "We have 140,000 kilometers of public roads in the Netherlands, 120,000 kilometers of which are relatively quiet," says Sten de Wit, who drives the cart from the knowledge institute TNO for the SolaRoad project. That 120,000 kilometers is potentially a huge power plant, he says. These roads have more surface than all the roofs of houses. "And it is beautiful," says de Wit, "it is the road surface that catches the sun for most of the day". Unlike the highways and main roads, where it remains relatively busy all day with car traffic.
When De Wit looks at the road surface, he actually sees a hidden solar power station in front of him. Then it is important to put solar cells in it. That technique is now being worked hard. The initiative, in which TNO, the province of Noord-Holland, Dynniq and Ooms Civiel will take part, will soon be harvesting solar energy from a large public road, where cars and cyclists are driving for the first time. Provinces such as Noord-Holland are thinking about it. The road manager must also cooperate, but energy must be safe from the road. It sounds crazy: a motorway that is good for the climate. It is technically possible. Certainly if electric cars drive over it in the future, with renewable energy in the battery.
There is no need to start from scratch completely. SolaRoad already has experience. In 2014, the first cycle path opened in Krommenie, with a hundred meters of solar cells in it. In the beginning there were teething problems. The top layer of the road released, the energy yield was also disappointing. That has been learned, De Wit promises. The technique is 'fine, commercial and technical'. The glass solar cells are processed in the road so that you hardly see them. There has been tinkered to ensure enough roughness. "It is not really dangerous or slippery, not even in the rain," claims De Wit.
Solar road in Krommenie with children
The sun bike path in Krommenie (Netherlands). 

For road users it is a matter of getting used to. At the bike path in Krommenie, SolaRoad tested the acceptance by road users. There was an ordinary asphalt road next to the sun road. A camera kept an eye on: which lane they choose. "It did not matter after the first cold-water fear."
Other companies have also gained air from the opportunities of roads with solar cells. Since its launch in 2014, SolaRoad has gained three competitors internationally. The more extra green energy the better, the Dutch say.

There are enough roads, so the companies would not bother each other so quickly. In the Netherlands, Groningen also received a first solar bike path. In France there were also two, delivered by the Netherlands. By selling small-scale sets of 2.5 by 3.5 meters, SolaRoad hopes to get strips of solar panels everywhere in the road surface. Such a strip of solar cells yields 3500 kilowatt-hours per year, equivalent to the electricity consumption of a house. Meanwhile, the consortium is looking for new opportunities for large projects. Only when entire cycle paths or motorways are equipped with panels do they really count in the clean energy mix.

That also works
Solar panels on walls of a flat

Solar panels attached to walls.

Solar panels will soon appear everywhere, if we have to believe green trend keepers. Funny gadgets from now on are very common. A backpack with a panel on it to charge your laptop. Or sun foil on the chest pocket of your t-shirt, to charge your mobile phone. The sunroof on an electric car can be a direct power supply for the battery. Energy expert Wim Sinke of ECN believes in such multifunctional use of space. A panel is more than just a panel in the (distant) future. A brick or roof tile, a work of art or a sound screen.

Frank Straver