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

Marine solar panels, associated 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 at the head of a consortium, which includes Tractebel, Jan De Nul, Soltech and the University of Ghent, determined to show the advantages of offshore PV in future European economic development.

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

The DEME group returns 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 garden) are expected to support the growth of the marine solar market as they have done with wind power.The consortium said in a note. “More generally, this expansion can be seen as a step towards the development of the so-called blue economy, which animates concepts such as the construction of cities on water, power plants on the sea, etc.“.

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

Not only that. The pilot plant should be designed to be cost competitive and to have minimal impact on the environment.

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

More information: www.deme-group.com