A pilot project to investigate the mechanical and electrical performance of flexible photovoltaic panels at sea and determine whether such a set-up would be technically and commercially viable has been launched by the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.
The project is being subsidised through the Malta Council for Science and Technology research and innovation grant and will be deployed off the coast of the Maltese Islands. The work is scheduled for the next two years.
MCAST said the development concept was innovative and original because it utilised flexible PVs mounted directly on the surface of the sea. The seawater acts as a heat sink, cooling the panels while they generate electricity.
This should have a beneficial effect on the efficiency and overall yield of the array. The performance of the floating PVs will be benchmarked with a similar, but much smaller system on dry land.
It is expected that the proposed concept will inherently have a number of advantages in relation to other similar systems, namely lower capital costs; less maintenance, improved reliability in comparison with other forms of marine renewable energy, such as offshore wind, rigid offshore PV structures, wave and tidal energy.
The partners on this project are MCAST, which will manage and engineer the project as well as carry out the underlying research, Econetique, Azzopardi Fisheries and Canadian research company Mirarco.
Initial studies have indicated that the concept has potential. The OPPV project will determine whether further studies should be undertaken in this area.