The North Sea Innovation Lab (NSIL) is a test location where researchers and industries can test new technologies in offshore conditions
NSIL is located 12 km off the coast of Scheveningen (The Hague)
The size of the NSIL site is 600 ha, split up in 6 plots of 100ha each. 2 pilots are used in UNITED: one for seaweed cultivation and one for floating solar
The site is managed by Stichting Noordzeeboerderij. The Seaweed Company will demonstrate the technical and economical feasibility of integrating seaweed cultivation in an offshore wind farm. Oceans of Energy, in turn, the integration of floating solar.
We are used to think of a “lab” as a room with white walls, clean tables, scientists going around in white gowns and technological equipment all over the place. But the North Sea Innovation Lab does not look like this at all: it is a stretch of open sea divided in six plots, with some small facilities on site, 12km off the coast of of The Hague.
The essential part of making a change, is to act. That is why Stichting Noordzeeboerderij initiated this North Sea Innovation Lab (NSIL): an offshore incubator & independent test site for research, pilots and the upscaling of innovations in the field of seaweed cultivation and co-use of offshore wind farms. The NSIL is accessible for everybody who wants to pilot new technologies or test blue innovations for upscaling, such as co-use of wind farms. If you want to start commercial activity offshore, this is the place to start.
In UNITED, two types of use are being tested at NSIL in two different plots: seaweed cultivation (by the Seaweed Company) and floating solar energy production (by Oceans of Energy).
Seaweed is a unique, untapped resource, as well as the fastest growing biomass in the world from a commercial point of view. One would never imagine how many applications it has: it can be used in cosmetics, as a thickening agent in toothpaste, in food, in fuel, in building materials… At present, seaweed is mostly produced in Asia, but it is mostly cultivated by hand, with low quality standards. The industrial production of high-quality seaweed has an enormous business potential, and doing it in combination with wind farming could lower the costs and increase overall efficiency.
Some challenges need to be faced, as offshore production implies higher costs, especially in difficult environmental conditions such as in the North Sea. And this is where UNITED comes into play: activities will be aimed at developing economically viable and technically feasible cultivation in this environment, and at demonstrating that it can be integrated in wind farms. Some tests have been conducted in the past at NSIL, but this is the first time that a commercial enterprise – the Seaweed Company – is testing seaweed production in offshore conditions.
And innovation in UNITED does not stop here. So far, floating solar technologies have never been tested offshore – normally, these are installed nearshore or in lakes. This year will be the first trial at the NSIL, implemented by Oceans of Energy. Also in this case, building the business case for offshore floating solar will be the main objective within UNITED. The potential for its integration with wind farming will also be explored, including synergies with seaweed cultivation in monitoring and maintenance.
Thanks to these activities, UNITED will contribute to the commercial development of innovative productions and technologies, and to the expansion of the Blue Economy in Europe.