Marine Solar Panel Gardens, The First Step Towards A Blue Economy

A consortium, led by Belgium’s DEME, is working on a € 2 million pilot project to build the first floating solar plant in North Sea waters.

Marine solar panels, combined with offshore wind turbines and aquaculture systems for a Blue Economy: this is the future envisioned by the Belgian multinational DEME for the waters of Northern Europe.

The company is the head of a consortium, which includes Tractebel, Jan De Nul, Soltech and the University of Ghent, determined to show the benefits of offshore photovoltaic energy in future European economic development.

Together they have launched a € 2 million project to build the first floating solar pilot plant in the North Sea. In February last year, the Netherlands Energy Research Center, in collaboration with other Dutch partners, launched a similar project (” Zon op Zee “).

The DEME group comes back to the idea and extends the long-term plan. ” Factors such as land scarcity, large-scale standardization and the impact of NIMBY (not in my back yard) should support the growth of the offshore solar market as they did with wind power ,” the consortium said in a note. “ In more general terms, this expansion can be seen as a step towards the development of the so-called Blue Economy, which promotes concepts such as the construction of cities on water, power plants in the sea, etc. “.

For the consortium, marine solar panels are the next logical step after the latest advances made by photovoltaics in lakes or dams, as well as other protected marine environments. However, adapting the modules for operations in harsh marine environments means that you can face several challenges: The technology must be corrosion resistant and designed to withstand strong currents and wave action.

Not only that. The pilot plant must be designed in a way that is cost competitive and has minimal impact on the environment.

For the pilot project, Tractebel will manage the offshore engineering, DEME and Jan De Nul Group the maritime operations, Soltech will provide photovoltaic panels and the University of Ghent will deal with aquaculture and ecosystem research.

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