Consortium to Create Offshore Solar Panels for Belgian North Sea
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in offshore waters could be an essential future green energy source. A consortium of Tractebel, Jan De Nul Group, DEME, Soltech and Ghent University will research how the technology can be brought to this rough environment and has plans for creating offshore solar farms in the Belgian North Sea.
The consortium will research how existing solar PV panels need 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. Ecosystem integration of the floating PV panels will be investigated from the start, to reduce the impact as much as possible. The consortium sees opportunities by combining the technology with aquaculture and offshore wind power in the same location, which has the additional advantage of saving space.
Development of the Blue Economy
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 panels on lakes and dams and low-wave offshore applications in lagoons and other sheltered environments. Factors such as land scarcity, large scale standardization and NIMBY (not in my backyard) impact are expected to support the growth of the offshore solar energy market as they did for wind energy. More generally, this expansion can be seen as a step towards the further development of the Blue Economy, driving concepts such as cities on the water and offshore energy hubs.
Government and Industry Funding
The consortium was set up in the framework of the Flemish Blue Cluster and is strongly supported by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). For this initiative, the budget of about two million euros 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.
Tractebel leads the consortium, which has knowledge of both PV technology and offshore engineering. DEME and Jan De Nul Group are experienced in marine operations and involved in numerous windfarm developments and installations. Soltech specialises in solar PV panels and Ghent University is one of the leading knowledge centers in offshore engineering, aquaculture and ecosystem research.
First Offshore Solar Farms in Belgian North Sea
The partners of the consortium are the first in Belgium to explore this offshore solar solution. Their ambition is also to be the first to realize offshore solar farms in the Belgian North Sea – eventually in combination with windfarms or aquaculture.