The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

MCAST investigates the possibility of generating solar energy from the sea

Thursday, 22 August 2019, 09:22 Last update: about 27 days ago

MCAST is leading a major project entitled Offshore Passive Photovoltaics (OPPV), through which the possibility of setting up large scale floating PV systems in Maltese territorial waters was explored. This project investigates the feasibility of deploying PV systems in the sea in a bid to respond to the ever growing demand for renewable energy supplies.

Solar PV systems require a large footprint, which is scarce in Malta, given that the island only has a total land surface of 316 km2. PV systems also suffer a reduction in efficiency when the PV panel temperature increases. Sea water has the potential to mitigate this disadvantage and keep PV panels cooler than those in a comparable ground based PV system, improving PV systems' efficiency.

In this project MCAST is collaborating with Econetique Ltd, a leading local organisation that deals in renewables, MIRARCO, a research organisation based in Canada, and Malta Mariculture Ltd, which is part of Azzopardi Fisheries, a major player in the Maltese fisheries industry.

The college together with its partners was successful in securing substantial funding for the project from the Malta Council for Science and Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the FUSION: R&I Technology Development Programme.

Floating PVs on fresh water lakes have been in existence. MCAST is innovative in exploring the floating PVs on sea water. This in itself presents great challenges in terms of materials that can withstand a harsh environment such as corrosion, marine growth, strong seawater currents, high waves and strong winds. The Maltese coastal waters presented another challenge, that of heavy maritime traffic.

A number of studies were undertaken before the project took off. These included a market research exercise, a preliminary feasibility study and a patent check. The system itself was designed in house by MCAST staff and took into consideration numerous concepts and designs that were verified through the use of finite element analysis.

The design stage was followed by an international procurement exercise for the sourcing of highly specialised components. This was combined with the in-house manufacturing of certain components as well as the assembly of the different components to produce the system.

The first pilot 8KW system was deployed at sea in 2018. The data obtained from this sea-borne system was benchmarked against a land system that was set up close to the sea site at Ċirkewwa. Data gathered during the pilot phase is being used to design and set up a follow up system that will be deployed at sea later on this year. It is anticipated that the results will lead to the commercialisation of the system.

 

 


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