Constructing the energy transition
Achieving the global climate goals requires a bold energy transition. Jan De Nul is taking a leading role in this. We do so not only by focusing on tried and tested forms of energy production and regulation such as the installation of offshore wind farms and connecting electricity grids, but also by researching new possibilities such as floating solar panels.
Offshore Wind Farm TPC (Taiwan)
The Taiwan Power Company (TPC) awarded Jan De Nul, in a consortium with Hitachi Ltd., the contract to build a 109.2 MW wind farm off the west coast of Taiwan. The scope of work included the design, fabrication, transportation and installation of turbines and cables, as well as upgrading an onshore power station. The consortium is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the wind farm up to 2026 or beyond. The design and construction of the 21 wind turbines, of 5.2 MW each, was challenging due to its location in a typhoon- and earthquake-prone area. Furthermore, TPC demanded that the connection to the mainland included a 300 m horizontally drilled track under local shipping traffic and an oyster farm, to avoid disrupting the local shipping traffic. We did more than that and drilled a track of 1 km to limit the potential nuisance for the local population and their activities to the maximum extent possible. Thanks to this wind farm, 110,000 families in Taiwan can now rely on green electricity.
Connecting Crete to mainland Greece
Until 2 years ago, the energy supply in Crete, the largest Greek island in the Mediterranean, still ran entirely on expensive, polluting and oil-fired units. The low reliability of these units contrasted sharply with very high and variable production costs and high taxes for consumers. A direct energy connection to mainland Greece would benefit the island's economic development and ensure a more reliable, affordable and sustainable power transmission. This had been the wish of Cretan people for over 25 years.
But in all these years, no one ventured crossing the Mediterranean. Installing a 135 km cable on a challenging seabed with rough rocks, in water depths of up to 1 km and with cable tensions of up to 75 tonnes? That simply seemed impossible until Jan De Nul took charge. Using the Cable-Laying Vessel Isaac Newton, we installed no less than 135 kilometres of cable at depths of up to 960 metres. A first, because never before had Jan De Nul installed a cable this deep on the seabed.
Thanks to the installation of the cable, it is now easier to connect renewable energy sources to the grid, which was not possible with the old, oil-fired units. In 2021, the new connection already delivered about 34% of the island's total electricity needs. The reduced reliance on oil-fired units also reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lowered energy production costs. To sum up, the connection has increased the reliability of the Cretan power grid, a significant benefit for tourism and overall economic activity in Crete.
Offshore wind farms also create other new opportunities. As there is quite a lot of space between the wind turbines with no through shipping traffic, this water surface could be used to install floating solar panels. Jan De Nul is participating in a pilot project, MPV Aqua, to test the feasibility of this idea. Installing a solar panel at sea requires a different approach and adapted materials to withstand the harsh conditions and salt water. Still, the lab tests that we conducted led to promising results. In 2023, Jan De Nul and its partners will therefore proceed with a practical test in the North Sea to investigate how much and what specific maintenance is needed, which types of solar panels are preferred, etc. If it turns out that solar energy at sea is a useful option, we are likely to add it to our services. To give an example: if we could fill the area between offshore wind turbines with solar panels, the production capacity of that wind and solar farm would increase by as much as 50 up to 100%.