Buffeted by waves as high as 10 meters in China’s Yellow Sea about 30 kilometers off the coast of Shandong province, two circular rafts carrying neat rows of solar panels began generating electricity late last year, a crucial step toward a new breakthrough for clean energy.

The experiment by State Power Investment Corp., China’s biggest renewable power developer, and Norway-based developer Ocean Sun is one of the most high-profile tests yet of offshore solar technology. It’s a potential advance in the sector that would enable locations out at sea to host renewables, and help land-constrained regions accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels.

Most initial trials of solar-at-sea have involved small-scale systems, and there are numerous challenges still to overcome — including higher costs and the impacts of corrosive salts or destructive winds. Yet developers are increasingly confident that offshore solar can become a significant new segment in renewable energy.