World first for ‘floatovoltaic’ power plant with China-Norway collaboration

China’s State Power Investment Corp (SPIC) has commissioned the world’s first commercial offshore floating solar power plant on the sea. 

Designed by Norway-based Ocean Sun, the facility claims to be the first floating solar power plant integrated with offshore wind.

“This is a true milestone for Ocean Sun, and for the floating solar industry,” said CEO of Ocean Sun Børge Bjørneklett. 

“The successful project funded by SPIC and constructed using the Ocean Sun solution shows how the common goal of reducing greenhouse CO2 emissions will be achieved with development across borders. We are excited to continue working closely with SPIC through the Ocean Sun team based in China.”

The two floaters, with a peak capacity of 0.5 MW, are connected to the transformer on an SPIC-owned wind turbine, which is in turn linked to a submarine cable. After the completion of the pilot period and full technical and economic demonstration, the plan is to build another floating wind-solar project with a total capacity of 20 MW next year, Ocean Sun revealed.

The facility is located offshore from Haiyang, a city in Shandong province in eastern China. Ocean Sun licensed in July its solution to Sunneng Technology for the project. The two companies are also working on a 1 MW floating solar power pilot near Yantai in Shandong.

The performance of floating photovoltaic panels, also known as floatovoltaics, benefits from water cooling them from below. They are currently installed on lakes. The proponents of the technology point out that covering a lake reduces evaporation, which is useful for hydropower plant operators and water supply.

The emerging risk from extreme weather events on floatovoltaics is still being assessed, however. Norway-based Statkraft and Ocean Sun built the first part of a floating solar power plant in Albania last year, but it was sunk by a tornado just days after completion. The unit was repaired in April.