MCAST project seeks to generate solar energy from sea structures

MCAST said that sea water solar panels would mitigate the problem of limited land space required for solar energy projects

Floating flexible PVs deployed off the North West coast of Malta
Floating flexible PVs deployed off the North West coast of Malta

MCAST is leading a project called Offshore Passive Photovoltaics (OPPV), exploring the possibility to setting up large-scale floating solar panels in Maltese territorial waters.

The project is investigating 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," MCAST said in a statement.

It added that 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.

"[MCAST], 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," the statement read.

Floating PVs on fresh water lakes have been used for some time. In Malta, however, this is an innovative project.

"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," MCAST said, adding that it is anticipated that the results will lead to the commercialisation of the system.