Behavior of floating solar platform - Part 1

Comportamiento plataforma solar flotante
In recent years, interest and investment in the use of floating platforms in water for the generation of renewable energy, both for the use of wind and solar energy, has grown remarkably.

In this blog, we are going to focus on floating solar energy platforms, which are increasingly being implemented, but which in turn suffer from various problems derived from floating in water and subjected to various climatic conditions.


In order to show the capabilities of CFD tools in predicting the behavior of floating platforms, both in the sea and in inland ponds or swamps, we are going to show some example cases.

In this case we will show a simplified situation corresponding to a floating solar plant subjected to waves, current and wind. It is important to mention that all these factors must be taken into account at the same time, since taking them into account separately may be too optimistic, and may end in catastrophic failure of the structure.

The traditional way of carrying out these analyzes is, on the one hand, the aerodynamic calculation of the solar panels without taking into account the water, and on the other, the calculation of the platform subjected to waves.

The combination of the three phenomena results in a complex behavior, where the interaction of the waves and the air can give rise to unforeseen instabilities, and in addition, the current subjects the support cables to a tension, which combined with the waves and the wind can lead to their sudden failure (either due to fatigue or dynamic effects).
Start of the calculation with the platform at rest
The calculation shown below starts with the platform at rest. The waves begin to be generated along with the wind, starting to move the platform. The platform is supported by prestressed cables. Their anchoring position is very important, as we will explain in part 2 of this blog.
Platform moving due to the effect of wind and waves

It can be seen in the video how a notable oscillation occurs, although it remains stable due to the cables and the position of the anchors.

The wave-wind interaction is clearly visible where a continuous gust does not reach the panels, due to their low height, the waves "shadow" the wind and therefore it arrives intermittently. While this may seem beneficial, it does not have to be and can lead to a false sense of security as static charges may initially be minor.

However, we are in the realm of dynamics and things must be looked at differently. Intermittent gusts, as we mentioned at the beginning, can lead to both global and local instabilities (may affect the beams that support the panels, for example). The way to detect these problems can only be achieved by performing dynamic simulations like this one.

In part 2 of this blog, we will show some failure cases and therefore tha ability of the simulation to predict such failures.

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