Could an offshore solar energy park ever work?

Could offshore photovoltaics soon help answer our energy needs? Could offshore photovoltaics soon help answer our energy needs?

While solar Photo Voltaic technology costs are still constantly decreasing, the evolution towards high-wave offshore applications is a logical next step.

After all, we already have fresh water floating PV on lakes and dams and low-wave offshore applications in lagoons and other sheltered environments.

A consortium to develop the concept further, led by Tractebel, has been set up in the framework of the Flemish Blue Cluster and is strongly supported by VLAIO. For this initiative, the budget of about €2M is a result of joined forces between industry and government support. The consortium aims to develop new concepts and perform laboratory and field testing to take the first steps towards commercialization of the technology.

Factors such as land scarcity, large scale standardization and NIMBY 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, offshore energy hubs, etc.

As well as marinizing the panels themselves a cost competitive concept for the floater structure needs to be designed. Finally, an ecosystem integration of the floating PV panels will be investigated from the start, to reduce the impact as much as possible.

The consortium partners bring together all required skills and expertise to make this innovative project a success.  While Tractebel has built 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 windfarm developments and installations. Soltech is an expert in specialized solar PV panels and Ghent University is one of the leading knowledge centres in offshore engineering, aquaculture and ecosystem research.

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 build offshore solar farms in the Belgian North Sea - eventually in combination with windfarms or aquaculture.

Philippe Hutse, Offshore Director at Jan De Nul Group said: “Jan De Nul strongly believes in offshore renewables and is keen to explore alternative solutions such as Floating Solar PV as part of the future offshore energy mix.”

By Jake Frith

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