In brief; float a series of solar film panels on flexible platforms (such as foam) off shore to produce electrical power. The floating platforms would be anchored into a location where the electrical power could easily be transmitted to shore, yet would not interfere with ocean traffic, sea life, and
would not totally block the sun from the surface because the platforms could be spread out.
Solar panels in film form are being made by Nanosolar in California with a newspaper printing type of process. Being film, they are very flexible. With this printing process, they are cheap. However, you have to buy a lot of them to interest the company.
The solar film could be floated on a foam impervious to water. This would allow waves to travel under the foam with little effect. A maintenance vessel at the anchor point(s) would be handy. If a location is found with almost 100% prevailing winds; then maybe only one anchor point would be needed.
The maintenance vessel could hold the electrical conversion equipment so that access to it would be easy. A computer handling all the panel, connection testing, and cable strains would be necessary for alarms and maintenance. Weather, marine radio, cell phone, radar, sonar?, equipment would of course be handy. A system for changing, adding, and maintaining the anchor(s) would be necessary. On shore monitoring and copying of data would be necessary.
I expect at least two staff on the maintenance vessel and a rotating shift person would be necessary.
Problems for design:
1. A way to tie platform edges together and prevent the platform from folding over when encountering breaking waves would need to be designed.
2. The platform edges would need to be designed to handle high winds.
3. If the platform bottom can handle barnacles, etc. growing on them; then I say, let them grow. Otherwise each platform could be disconnected, rolled up, and washed off regularly.
4. Electrical connections tend to erode quickly around the salt water and are especially prone to opening with continual movement. This might be solved by using the platform connecting cables as electrical conductors at the same time, doubling or tripling them, monitoring the connections, using something like mylar film for flexibility and light weight and sealing connections with electrically conductive sealant.
5. If the whole array of platforms cannot handle storms; then maybe a system for rolling up and storing the array would be possible. One solution might be to roll it up and sink it below 70 feet depth and therefore below most wave action.
6. Whales may breach on the platforms, get caught in them, or tear them up. I dont have an immediate solution for this problem, but am sure that someone can come up with several.
7. Markers and automatic beacons would need to be visible for ocean traffic.
8. Salt encrustations may form on the solar film surfaces, but warm water pumped over them might dissolve and clean them.
previous iteration [bungston, Sep 24 2008]
Floating solar panels here too. But not at sea.
[bungston, Sep 24 2008]