Powering ships by hydrogen, refueled at seaworthy floating solar islands? If it is up to SolarDuck and Voyex, this will become a reality for the shipping sector. A prototype of such a solar-island will soon be on display on the Waal near IJzendoorn, a Dutch first. The Province of Gelderland supports this innovation with a subsidy of €350.000. Dekker will facilitate the project by offering space.

To make inland shipping more sustainable, SolarDuck and Voyex announced a R&D-partnership to enable emission-free sailing by using hydrogen. It’s safe, easy, economic and technically feasible. Also there won’t be a need for fuel transport because refueling takes place right at the source: the floating solar island on the Waal on which testing will commence in April 2021. “The innovative power lies in combining technologies”, according to Koen Burgers, CEO of SolarDuck. “If upscaled, a solar island at sea and on rivers can offer the shipping sector a sustainable alternative.”

The test setup at Dekker in IJzendoorn will be the first of its kind in the Netherlands. SolarDuck will supply the solar island: 4 linked platforms containing 39 solar panels each. These modular platforms are suited for the rough conditions found at sea, but will first be tested on the Waal to look at the effects of strong currents and heavy winds. “At the beginning of April, the entirety of the solar island will be towed upstream from Gorinchem to Dekker’s riverport in IJzendoorn. A unique event in itself!”, Burgers assures.

The floating solar island, which produces 65 kilowatts of peak power, is connected to a 10 kilowatt electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. The hydrogen is bonded to a ‘Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier’ (LOHC), an oil-like liquid which serves as a binding agent, or carrier, for the produced hydrogen. “This ‘hydrogen-oil ‘can be transported at room temperature, under the same atmospheric conditions as fuels such as diesel”, Wiard Leenders, CEO of Voyex explains. Furthermore, part of the test setup is the manner in which the hydrogen is released from the oil and subsequently used to generate power on board. ”The carrier itself can be reused”, Leenders adds. This means that the entire energy grid up to and including the sailing on safe hydrogen is within reach.

The project is aptly named “The Atoll”, referring to the movie “Waterworld”, in which an artificial man made island supplies in its own energy needs. Both companies have the long-term ambition, although within their own respective angle of approach, to produce hydrogen using floating solar islands at sea to supply both the shipping sector and other heavy-duty applications.

It won’t come as a surprise that they inquired about a test location at Dekker in IJzendoorn. Dekker encourages the use of hydrogen for the transport sector. “Our floating sand extracting plants have already been made much more sustainable, however we are still looking for a solution for our fleet,” according to Gert Pomstra, group director of Dekker. “We wholeheartedly support the innovation of SolarDuck and Voyex, and hope this will contribute to making inland shipping more sustainable.”

The total size of the project is approximately €1.000.000. The Province of Gelderland awarded it with a subsidy of €350.000.