EnergyVille opens new centre for solar power research


The sustainable campus in Genk will expand the research centre’s capacity for projects such as photovoltaic batteries and investigating geothermal energy from flooded mines

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EnergyVille in Genk has opened a second campus building, expanding its capacity to host sustainable energy research collaborations. Activity in the new building will focus on solar power and batteries, both high-priority technologies given the need to transform energy systems and meet international climate change targets.

“In EnergyVille 2 an important topic of research is making photovoltaic systems and new storage systems more efficient, intelligent and less expensive, allowing more energy to be stored in electric cars or home batteries,” the organisation explained. 

EnergyVille is a collaboration between the independent research centres Vito and Imec, and the universities KU Leuven and UHasselt. It is based on the Thor science park, at the former Waterschei coal mining site in Genk, and opened its first campus building in 2016.

The new campus will have laboratories and office space for about 100 researchers, along with specialist facilities such as a dry room where the humidity is kept extremely low, to aid the construction of new batteries. Both Imec and UHasselt will move part of their photovoltaic and battery research to the new location, including Imec’s pre-pilot line for thin-film solar cell production.

The new building aims to lead the way in sustainable energy and has solar panels integrated into its facade.

Electrical meets thermal

At the official opening on 31 May, researchers presented results from an EU-funded project looking at sustainable energy supplies in cities. Initiatives included establishing a local direct current network to optimise the use of solar energy and investigating whether the flooded mines of Winterslag and Waterschei could be used as a source of geothermal energy.

“The project not only focused on individual technologies; we are also looking for a system approach that integrates electrical and thermal energy sources,” said Ronnie Belmans, the chief executive of EnergyVille and a professor at KU Leuven. “By bringing all these sources into contact with each other, we create a great deal of flexibility and will be able to better absorb the changing energy production of renewable energy sources.”

Photo: Imec CEO Luc Van den hove, EnergyVille Campus CEO Ronnie Belmans, Flemish energy minister Bart Tommelein, Genk mayor Wim Dries, Limburg provincial deputy Erik Gerits and EnergyVille Campus COO Bert Gysen

© Wilmer Desloovere