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A floating solution to generate more and better energy
31 May 2022
Interviewing João Felgueiras, General Manager at SolarisFloat
As we enter a world of energy uncertainty, still relying in non-renewable energy sources and with the prices going up, it's nice to find companies like SolarisFloat, investing in solar energy. Their goal was, and still is, to optimise the energy production while ensuring there is no environmental impact.
We asked a few questions to João Felgueiras, the General Manager at SolarisFloat, but first, here's some background: SolarisFloat is a Portuguese company, part of jp.group, and they have designed and developed a floating photovoltaic (PV) solution for interior water bodies, such as artificial lakes of dams, water reservoirs, lagoons, canals and others. SolarisFloat has called this innovative PV solution PROTEVS®.
Because of PROTEVS® they have been selected as finalists of the European Inventor Award 2022 in the sector of renewable energy. Congratulations!
João Felgueiras, General Manager at SolarisFloat
What differentiates PROTEVS from other solutions?
Taking advantage of its modularity and flexibility, it can be adapted to each specific site. It has an innovative sun tracking feature aiming to increase the generated energy up to 30% more in comparison with other solutions. It also includes the possibility of installing a fixed solution, without tracking.
Its type of architecture, scalable and modular, and the circular shape of the platform, allow an easy assembly while ensuring high levels of resistance and durability. This is important to endure hard environment conditions (waves up to 2m and wind draft up to 220 Km/h). Also, its unique design and exterior breakwater assure higher resistance, minimizing the waves effect, water debris that can damage the platform, assuring a proper working condition of the overall solution during its life time.
The thermoplastics used in the floaters, have UV protection component and design to sustain the expected lifetime of this type of solutions - up to 25 years.
Floating solar farm mooring system that tracks the sun: PROTEVS.
How did SolarisFloat started?
As expected it was a learning process.
Back in 2016, we saw that the solar energy sector was growing in an exponential rate. We identified this as an opportunity to have a presence in the sector, with Portuguese technology and assuring a three-key perspective:
- Energy production optimization
- No environmental impact
- Scalability (business and partners)
Within our strategy we decided to work with INEGI, instead of having a big internal R&D team. This way, we could have access to different specialized resources when needed and support the innovation and development process. In parallel, we decided to grow internationally, to provide reliability and comfort to our partners.
In 2017, we started the patent registration process (5 patent applications in total). We did several pilots to achieve a Technological Readiness Level. Currently we have two projects in the Netherlands and several more in our pipeline to be closed this year.
Engineers Nuno Correia and Carla Gomes, lead a team that has developed a mooring platform for floating solar farms that tracks the sun. Photo by Ricardo Castelo.
What is your approach to sustainability?
Our key pillars when developing PROTEVS® were to have low carbon footprint, by taking in consideration reutilization, recycling, and low logistics; simultaneously promoting the leverage of local and circular economy in the installation area.
In terms of the materials, the base of the PROTEVS® solution are thermoplastics materials 100% recyclable, specifically developed for PROTEVS® to have a high UV and impact resistance to guarantee the best performance of the product, with no impact in water life development. Another used material is steel or aluminium to support the PV panels. All these materials are 100% recyclable at the end of their life and less than 5% are electrical components and materials with less than 100% recyclable rate.
Regarding the design: aerodynamically PROTEVS® reduces water evaporation up to 25% contributing significantly against desertification and water waste. Also, by design all the system is transported docked and stacked improving logistics (reduced volume).
Thirdly the conception and the aim are to allow production displacement to produce parts locally and to allow knowledge transfer. That improves local economy, local development and as the system is recyclable promoting the green and circular economy.
Floating solar farm mooring system that tracks the sun: PROTEVS. Photo by Ricardo Castelo.
What is the role of IP in SolarisFloat?
A very important one. We believe that any innovation is very important not only to the Inventor (in this case INEGI) but for the owner (SolarisFloat). This virtual asset – the IP – it’s the output of our effort and investment in the first years of our company and the partnership we have with INEGI.
If we think business, as aforementioned, this IP will allow the internationalization of our solution and if needed – a decentralization of the production of PROTEVS® for a near shore production minimizing the costs and potentiate local integration.
SolarisFloat is continuously improving its solution, whether it is reducing costs, changing materials for a more sustainable approach, or increasing the solution functionality.
Nuno Correia and Joao Felgueiras. Photo by Ricardo Castelo.
What advice would you like to give to the future inventors from your own experience?
Think outside the box and be resilient, but since the beginning have a clear objective to achieve. The path to achieve that objective will or may change but the final goal should be clear.