Floating solar islands to test viability of offshore solar power plants

In lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland, three solar-powered floating laboratories are to be constructed by the Swiss energy company Viteos SA and project developer Nolaris.

The laboratories are intended to act as research facilities that demonstrate the efficacy of floating concentrated solar power plants, and also whether this concept can be applied to typical PV solar panels. (For a super quick primer: concentrated solar power (CSP) plants concentrate hot sunlight onto boilers to produce steam, which is then used to drive steam turbines.)

Each of the laboratories will be 25 metres in diameter and will be equipped with 100 PV panels. Each panel will be set up back-to-back on a 45° incline. These islands will rotate 220° to track the sun so that they always achieve optimal performance.

These laboratories will also be anchored to the floor of the lake using concrete blocks, and they will be located 150 metres away from shore, near a water purification plant. The power plants will supply power to the electricity grid on land via cables using Viteous inverters. The islands are supposed to be recyclable and sustainable for 25 years.

Viteos plans to invest more than 100 million CHF ($108 million) to increase its own power output to more than 80 million kWh within 10 years, as part of its renewable energy development initiative. The completion of the photovoltaic systems is expected by August 2013.