July 22 (Renewables Now) - Tractebel, the engineering unit of French energy group Engie SA (EPA:ENGI), announced on Thursday it is leading a consortium that has the ambition to develop and build floating solar projects in the Belgian North Sea.
The members of the consortium will work together on the concept and technology for high-wave offshore solar panels as they expect offshore photovoltaic (PV) systems to be among “the essential future green energy sources”.
The tie-up includes Jan De Nul Group and Belgium's Deme, both of which have significant experience in marine operations, and Belgian solar technology firm Soltech, which will be developing solar panels that can withstand the harsh conditions offshore. Also, Ghent University’s Laboratory of Aquaculture, the Environmental Toxicology Unit and the Maritime Technology Division will be participating in the project.
The project has a budget of roughly EUR 2 million with which to develop new concepts and carry out laboratory and field testing ahead of the commercialisation of the technology. Their plains include the possible combination of solar arrays at sea with offshore wind farms or aquaculture so as to use the available space more efficiently.
To make offshore solar possible, solar panels will have to be able to survive in salty water and strong currents, and a cost-competitive concept for the floater structure will be needed too. The consortium members have also concluded that they need to investigate ecosystem integration of the floating PV panels from the start in order to limit the impact as much as possible.