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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 01 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 01 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Effects of floating (solar PV) platforms on hydrodynamics and primary production in a coastal sea

Thodoris Karpouzoglou1, Brigitte Vlaswinkel2, and Johan van der Molen3 Thodoris Karpouzoglou et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU), Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.005, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2Oceans of Energy, Wassenaarseweg 75, 2223LA Katwijk, The Netherlands
  • 3NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Dept. of Coastal Systems, and Utrecht University, P.O. Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, The Netherlands

Abstract. An improved understanding of the effects of floating solar platforms on the ecosystem is necessary to define acceptable and responsible real-world field implementations of this new marine technology. This study examines a number of potential effects of offshore floating solar PV platforms on the hydrodynamics and net primary production in a coastal sea for the first time. Three contrasting locations within the North Sea (a shallow and deeper location with well-mixed conditions and a summer-stratifying location) have been analysed using a water column physical-biogeochemical model (GOTM-ERSEM-BFM). The results show strong dependence on the characteristics of the location (e.g. mixing and stratification) and on the density of coverage with floating platforms. The overall response of the system was separated into contributions by platform shadow, shielding by the platforms of the sea surface from wind, and friction induced by the platforms on the currents. For all three locations, platform shadow was the dominant effect on the net primary production. For the two well-mixed locations, the other effects of the platforms resulted in partial compensation for the impact of platform shadow, while for the stratified location, they enhanced the effects of platform shadow. For up to 20 % coverage of the model surface with platforms, the spread in the results between locations was relatively small, and the changes in net primary production were less than 10 %. For higher percentages of coverage, primary production decreased substantially, with an increased spread in response between the sites. The water-column model assumes horizontal homogeneity in all forcings and simulated variables, also for coverage with floating platforms, and hence the results are applicable to very large-scale implementations of offshore floating platforms that are evenly distributed over areas of at least several hundreds of square kilometres. To confirm these results, and to investigate more realistic cases of floating platforms distributed unevenly over much smaller areas with horizontally varying hydrodynamic conditions, in which phytoplankton can be expected to spend only part of the time underneath a farm, spatial detail and additional processes need to be included. To do so, further work is required to advance the water-column model towards a 3D modelling approach.

Thodoris Karpouzoglou et al.
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Thodoris Karpouzoglou et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The effects of floating solar platforms on the marine ecosystem must be known for responsible field implementations. We modelled effects of floating platforms on water flow and algae growth in a coastal sea. Algae growth reduced, depending on the local currents and on the density of coverage with platforms. The model represented platforms distributed evenly over areas of hundreds of square kilometres. For more detail and smaller-scale cases, three-dimensional models are needed.
The effects of floating solar platforms on the marine ecosystem must be known for responsible...