Empowering the Global Industry

Pioneering eco-friendly project for solar heat in the Port of Antwerp

The first solar concentrator farm in the European process industry has been inaugurated in the Port of Antwerp.

This pioneering energy technology generates eco-friendly heat from concentrated sunlight that can be used by industrial companies. The plant was installed for Adpo by the Genk-based energy company Azteq as part of a pilot project co-financed by the Flemish government.

Industrial companies normally obtain heat for their processes from combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas. Concentrated Solar Thermal energy is an innovative technology in which sunlight is concentrated by parabolic mirrors and so converted directly to heat. The temperatures reached can be as high as 400°C, thus providing high-grade heat that can be used in industrial processes. The technology produces three times as much energy per installed square metre than a photovoltaic system. Furthermore the heat can be stored in insulated containers so that it is also available for use at night. The technology is an entirely eco-friendly alternative for industrial heating requirements and so can make a significant contribution toward reducing CO2 emissions.

The Ghent-based energy company Azteq has in the past few months installed a CST farm with 1100 m² of parabolic reflectors on the site of the logistics company Adpo in Beveren. Until now Adpo has used gas to produce the steam that it uses for cleaning and heating tanks and containers. This requires temperatures of more than 140°C, well within the capabilities of CST technology. The CST farm that will replace 500 MWh of gas consumption annually is installed above the company’s car park, above a railway line and underneath a high voltage line, thus providing an excellent example of double use of ground area. The solar reflectors, each 5 m long and installed in lines of 120, follow the path of the sun and focus the incident sunlight on collector tubes. The plant is the first industrial CST project in Europe.

“Investing in the transition to sustainable, renewable energy is in our DNA,” declared Filip De Dijcker, Managing Director of Adpo. “The current project is not our first foray into sustainable energy. We already generate 700 MWh of electricity per year from solar panels, and the first LNG/CNG gas station was built on our terminal five years ago. We are also making our contribution to the modal shift: thanks to a new container quay we transport 10,000 containers per year by water instead of by road, and we have made significant investments in a rail connection and a direct pipeline connection for two of our companies.”

The plant in the port of Antwerp forms part of a project in which three pilot installations with solar reflectors are being set up in Flanders. The three plants in Beveren, Ostend and Genk respectively will generate between 1,390 and 1,260 MWh of eco-friendly heat annually. Between them these plants will cost a total of 1.425 million, of which 819,000 is being financed by the Flemish government.

Koen Vermout, CEO of Azteq, commented: “With this technology we aim to decarbonise a significant part of industrial energy requirements by 2030. This initiative in the port is one of the pilot projects that we are able to put into practice thanks to support from the Flemish government. We want in particular to demonstrate the feasibility of this technology and to establish it here. In addition to Flanders there are also plans for projects in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria and Spain. Making the supply of heat for industry more eco-friendly not only leads to significant reductions in CO2 emissions but also to technical progress and job creation in a future-oriented circular economy.”

Port of Antwerp CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said: “As Port of Antwerp we have a pioneering role to play in the energy transition. Together with industry we are working to reduce CO2 emissions and make the transition to alternative energy sources, so as to become a CO2-neutral port. We aim to accomplish this by means of ambitious transition projects, using methanol, hydrogen, wind power etc. We want to be a testbed for technological innovation that helps us on the way to a sustainable future. I am therefore proud that this promising technology is being tested first in Port of Antwerp.”

Port alderman Annick De Ridder said: “Big challenges such as those posed by the energy transition can only be tackled by collaboration. Collaboration with industry, the Flemish government and the industry associations. Together we are the driving force behind the conception and implementation of solutions to the challenges of the future. In our view, innovation is the way ahead. This pioneering project is an excellent example.”