The offshore environment holds many opportunities for the production of both energy and food. Wind energy will be produced in large quantities on the North Sea in the near future. Combining wind with solar energy and seaweed production promises to make a more efficient use of offshore space and assets. But how do we best combine these different functionalities?
In an open innovation project we aim to bring the multi-use, offshore space concept a step closer to reality by conceptualising, building and testing at model scale. Valuable data can be measured on the interaction between floating solar panels, seaweed farms and wind turbines, whilst setting an inspiring precedent for the industry. This process is inspired by the Google design sprint method - build fast, fail fast, and therefore learn fast.
The first stage of the open innovation project is the concept development. This has been done in a design sprint with experts from different backgrounds. The main goal of the session was to maximise the energy and food production on the North Sea per square metre. The sprint questions focused on topics such as how to make the concept viable, defining the ecological impact and how to maintain the structural integrity and the logistics around the wind farm. The conclusion of the design sprint is a modular layout with bio-inspired, flexible solar panels and a seaweed growth system which can easily be harvested and seeded.
MARIN’s Offshore Basin is transformed into a multi-use, North Sea farm in order to test different hydromechanical aspects of the design. The three main research topics are: the forces and behaviour of the structure, the influence of a seaweed farm on the incoming waves and the hydro-structural behaviour of the flexible solar panels. The first results are promising, with low mooring forces to keep the very large flexible structures in place.
Of course the hydromechanical aspects are not the only important research topic. During the tests a demonstration seminar is organised to show the concept to interested stakeholders and together with them investigate the next steps in the development of multi-use platforms. The seminar started off with interesting speakers from different fields which gave context to the concept. Afterwards the group moved to MARIN to experience the test from up close, some participants even went into the basin for a close look. Lastly all the feedback on the concept was gathered in a workshop which then focused on the future outlook of this field and encouraged all the participants to think of the role of their own organisations.
We look back on a very successful project which gave a lot of insight into the world of multi-use platforms. We think the building of the scale model has inspired different parties to start thinking about multi-use in a more practical manner. All the results, including the test data, will be shared to encourage open innovation. We are looking forward to new concepts and cooperation concerning multi-use projects and believe they will play an important role in future developments.