Research infrastructure for Blue Energy
In mid-May 2014, the Flemish Government, on the initiative of Minister Ingrid Lieten, decided to invest 5 million euros in the project Gen4Wave. On Monday, May 19th, 2014 the Board of Directors of the Hercules Foundation decided to approve the request of Ghent University and KU Leuven to support heavy research infrastructure linked to Gen4Wave for an amount of EUR 2.3 million. Gen4Wave has launched an investment project on coastal engineering and offshore energy.
The funds are being used for the construction and start-up of a large basin with wave, tidal and wind generation. In the press release issued by the Flemish Government, Minister of Innovation Ingrid Lieten says: "This wave tank is essential to strengthen our international position in offshore engineering. Moreover, the infrastructure provides an opportunity for companies and government agencies to develop innovative designs for offshore energy and coastal defenses for the expected rise in the water level. We are investing in groundbreaking research on renewable energy from waves, tides and wind, in which we are bringing our scientists and our businesses together. "
The realization of the wave tank is one of the pillars of Gen4Wave, an action plan on wave and tidal energy. The plan was developed by the University of Ghent at the request of ‘Generaties’, a working group which places Flanders in the field of renewable energy.
The wave tank is a tank of 30 x 30 meters which allows scale models of coastal engineering and offshore structures such as breakwaters, wave and tidal energy converters or offshore wind turbines, to experience the action of waves, tidal currents and wind. By measuring the behavior of the construction of these prototypes, the design of these can then be optimized when they are built in full size.
The resources of Hercules will be used specifically to generate the necessary currents and waves in the wave tank. A unique combination of wave and current characteristics is contemplated. This challenging research roadmap can, as prepared by KU Leuven and Ghent University in the framework of the Hercules request, then be realized.
The wave tank is an important trigger for innovation in the sector, because this type of infrastructure is overburdened in Europe. It provides research space that is often not available for the Flemish industry and Flemish researchers in other countries.
Dergelijke infrastructuur is immers overbevraagd in Europa waardoor de Vlaamse industrie en Vlaamse onderzoekers vaak met lage prioriteit worden toegelaten tot buitenlandse infrastructuur.
This slows down innovation amongst established players such as DEME and Jan De Nul, but also holds back recent initiatives such as research FlanSea, that earlier (2010) could rely on research and innovation support from IWT-Vlaanderen. Moreover, the proposed wave tank offers some unique opportunities for generating, measuring and adjusting the waves, currents and wind, so that international interest in the infrastructure is expected to develop. This could lead to foreign investment and industrial activities within Flanders.
The infrastructure will be embedded in the Ghent University Science Park of GreenBridge in Ostend. The department of Maritime Access (Department of Mobility and Public Works) will build examination halls of 190 x 90 meters here. The project has a connection with the Port of Ostend which has been strongly profiled in the area of offshore energy. In this regard, the projects fits perfectly in the plans of the province of West Flanders, in the context of the Blue Energy Factory of the Future. The infrastructure will be developed by Ghent University, in partnership with KU Leuven and Hydraulic Laboratory who are all investing in the project, and thus the necessary relevant players in the field of scale modeling are brought together.