Effects of large-scale floating (solar photovoltaic) platforms on hydrodynamics and primary production in a coastal sea from a water column model

Karpouzoglou, Thodoris; Vlaswinkel, Brigitte; van der Molen, Johan

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 photovoltaic (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 seasonally stratifying location) have been analysed using a water column physical–biogeochemical model: the General Ocean Turbulence Model coupled with the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model – Biogeochemical Flux 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-induced light deficit, shielding by the platforms of the sea surface from wind and friction induced by the platforms on the currents. For all three locations, light deficit 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 light deficit, while for the stratified location, they enhanced the effects of light deficit. 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, such that phytoplankton remain underneath a farm throughout several tidal cycles. 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 and effects are likely to be smaller, spatial detail and additional processes need to be included. To do so, further work is required to advance the water column model towards a three-dimensional modelling approach.



Karpouzoglou, Thodoris / Vlaswinkel, Brigitte / van der Molen, Johan: Effects of large-scale floating (solar photovoltaic) platforms on hydrodynamics and primary production in a coastal sea from a water column model. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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Rechteinhaber: Thodoris Karpouzoglou et al.

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