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May 16, 2021

A new hurricane-resistant floating solar farm could help replace fossil fuels

A new solar power platform is making waves in the way we think about renewable energy, advancing a novel form of offshore floating arrays. Called the “Demonstrator,” the platform was recently towed upriver in the Netherlands to simulate some of the wind and water stresses of being out at the open sea, and it passed with flying colors.

While the ideal environs for SolarDuck’s creation are cities and islands near the equator (where there’s less wind for wind power), the next Demonstrator variant “can withstand hurricane forces” experienced in and around Bermuda and Florida, explained CTO Don Hoogendoorn of SolarDuck, in a video interview with Interesting Engineering.

Cities and islands in the ‘sunbelt’ need solar power but lack land

SolarDuck designed the floating solar power structures to withstand coastal sea conditions and hurricane-force winds, but also optimized them for natural harbors, estuaries, and other near-shore regions, overcoming waves more than 10 ft (3 m) high. The upriver test saw a triangular platform dragged 31 miles (50 km), experiencing forces of 17.6 tons (16 metric tons) while moving at 7 knots.

And considering the quickening pace of climate change, the timing of Demonstrator’s entry into the world is apt. Cities everywhere from Tokyo to New York are beginning to take a serious look at the logistics of pivoting away from fossil fuels. But many lack the primary economic force that makes cities attractive: Available real estate. “Cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and other islands are out of land,” said Hoogendoorn. And these platforms could begin to power significant communities all around the equator, where the sun is constant but wind is scarce, leaving wind power impractical.

Keep reading on Interesting Engineering

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