The partners strongly believe that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in offshore waters are one of the essential future green energy sources. Combined in the same location with aquaculture and offshore wind power, this innovative technology allows for a more efficient use of available space.
While solar PV technology costs are still constantly decreasing, the evolution towards high-wave offshore applications is a logical next step after fresh water floating PV on lakes and dams and low-wave offshore applications in lagoons and other sheltered environments. Factors such as land scarcity, large scale standardisation and NIMBY impact are indeed expected to support the growth of the offshore solar energy market as they did for the wind energy. More generally, this expansion can be seen as a step towards the further development of the so-called Blue Economy, driving concepts such as cities on the water, offshore energy hubs, etc.
Taking solar technology to rough offshore environment needs the existing solar PV panels to be adapted to resist salty water and withstand strong currents and wave action. In addition, a cost competitive concept for the floater structure should be designed. Finally, ecosystem integration of the floating PV panels will be investigated from the start, to minimise the impact as much as possible.
The consortium partners will bring together all required skills and expertise to make this innovative project a real success. While Tractebel has built up strong engineering skills in both PV technology and offshore engineering, DEME and Jan De Nul Group are highly experienced in marine operations and involved in numerous wind farm developments and installations. Soltech is an expert in specialised solar PV panels and Ghent University is one of the leading knowledge centres in offshore engineering, aquaculture and ecosystem research.
The consortium, led by Tractebel, was set up in the framework of the Flemish Blue Cluster and is strongly supported by VLAIO. For this initiative, the budget of about € 2 Mio is a result of joined forces between industry and government support. With these means, the consortium aims to develop new concepts and perform laboratory and field testing to take the first steps towards the commercialization of the technology.
The partners of the consortium are the first in Belgium to explore this pioneering offshore solar solution. Their ambition is also to be the first to realise offshore solar farms in the Belgian North Sea - eventually in combination with wind farms or aquaculture. In this way, the partners position themselves in this new, fast-evolving market.
“This groundbreaking initiative perfectly fits Tractebel’s ambition to become a world leader in offshore engineering for energy production, storage and transport” said Denis Lohest, CEO of Tractebel in Belgium. “Following our active involvement in one of the world’s first floating wind farms, it is a great honor for us to team up with key energy players for the development of first-of-a-kind technology for high-wave offshore solar panels.”
Luc Vandenbulcke, CEO of DEME, added that the company is confident that high wave offshore solar technology can play a key role in realising a sustainable energy transition and that it has always been a pioneer in the renewable energy market.
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