Belgian partners Jan De Nul, Tractebel, and DEME are introducing Seavolt, a new offshore floating photovoltaic (PV) technology. This technology is a result of joint R&D, combining the expertise of solar, environmental and offshore experts.

Seavolt technology (patent pending) can withstand harsh offshore conditions while creating large surfaces that are protected from the waves. The modular design allows for easy adaptation to different sites and demands.

Benefits include local renewable energy production and the possibility to install the panels in offshore wind farms (where local authorities permit multi-use concessions). Another advantage is the addition of large volumes of renewable energy capacity in a relatively short time.

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Test installation off the Belgian coast

The partners, together with Ghent University, started the VLAIO-funded research project MPVAQUA (Marine PV Aquaculture) within the frame of Blue Cluster four years ago. A marine floater concept was developed together with initial research on effects on the marine ecosystem, integration of aquaculture, and a financial assessment.

Following laboratory testing, the partners are currently developing an offshore test installation, which will be launched off the Belgian coast in summer 2023. Furthermore, in collaboration with RBINS, parallel tracks focusing on the ecosystem, the environment and cost effectiveness are being launched with the support of the Energy Transition Fund and the Federal Relaunch Fund.

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Solar and wind energy are complementary

The interest from the PV sector in offshore locations stems from land scarcity, combined with the need for local production and rapid acceleration of the energy transition. Photovoltaic technology is developing faster than ever: The “magic” 1-TW milestone of installed capacity was reached in 2022, the need for local renewable energy production is increasing drastically, and the complementarity between wind and solar technology has been confirmed all over the world.

As authorities allow for multi-use concessions and the grid infrastructure shows good potential for combined use, the addition of offshore floating solar to current and future offshore wind sites presents an opportunity to add large volumes of additional renewable energy.

‘Seavolt is a reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly solution that can be deployed in even the harshest offshore conditions,’ says Philippe Hutse, Offshore Director at Jan De Nul Group. ‘As the offshore wind industry continues to grow, we believe that it has the potential to play a crucial role in optimising the use of space on the sea by complementing offshore wind farms.’

Philippe Van Troeye, CEO of Tractebel, adds: ‘Along with offshore green fuel production, offshore energy islands, interconnectors and potential solutions for energy storage, we believe offshore floating PV has an important role to play in the acceleration of the energy transition. While this technology is still in its infancy, we are convinced that with such strong partners on board we are giving Seavolt all possible chances to succeed.’

Picture: Combining offshore floating solar with offshore wind sites has the potential to add large volumes of additional renewable capacity.

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