Solar energy from Limburg in the spotlight during Prince's Mission to Norway

With a presentation for Princess Astrid and some 150 Belgian and Norwegian business leaders, academics and politicians, UHasselt, EnergyVille, imec, POM Limburg, and Futech/iLumen together showed the strengths of the Limburg ecosystem around solar energy on 18 June during the Belgian Economic Mission to Norway.

Bart Vermang met PV Bart Vermang met PV

"Renewable energy is one of the central topics within this Princely Mission. We want to show how Limburg, just like Norway, is fully committed to this energy transition and what important role solar energy plays in this," says Prof Bart Vermang (UHasselt/imec/EnergyVille).

Limburg is the only province in Belgium that has already exploited more than 10 per cent of its roof potential for solar energy. 1 in 4 Limburg households has its own solar panel installation, no other Belgian province is doing better in this respect. "The sun shines the brightest in Limburg," says Annelies Gorissen, strategic sustainability expert at POM Limburg, laughing. "But the figures really do show it. Add to that the many and diverse research activities around solar cells being conducted within EnergyVille (KU Leuven, VITO, imec, UHasselt) and the whole ecosystem of spin-offs and companies all working around solar energy that have already established themselves at Genk's Thor Park, and you can see that solar energy is alive and well in Limburg." That is the message that Bart Vermang, from the Institute for Materials Research imo-imomec together with EnergyVille, imec, POM Limburg and Futech/iLumen also wants to bring during the Prince's Mission to Norway from 16 to 19 June.

New types of solar cells

Photo: solar films from UHasselt & imec spin-off EnFoil Photo: solar films from UHasselt & imec spin-off EnFoil

In the prestigious Opera House in Oslo, the partners will jointly present the strength of the Limburg ecosystem around solar energy on Tuesday 18 June. "The biggest innovations around solar energy, the energy source we need to bet on to make the transition to renewable energy a success, are happening in this ecosystem," he said. "With Soltech and the spin-off EnFoil, the Thor Park already has leading companies bringing new types of solar cells to the market. On top of that, there are several other valorisation projects in the pipeline, so there is still a lot of strong innovation to come," says Bart Vermang.


During the presentation, the partners also want to draw specific attention to the future of floating solar panel parks (floating pv) and agri-pv. "Two emerging markets with a great future, which EnergyVille is already betting on," they said. In floating pv, solar panels are installed on a floating platform or structure in a lake or sea. These structures are also very complementary to offshore wind farms as a green energy source and form a kind of reef that benefits the biodiversity of aquatic life. In agri-pv, in turn, we place solar energy over farmland in such a way that cultivation is still possible. A win-win for the farmer, who can get power from the fields in addition to the crops and where the solar panels also protect the crops during heavy hailstorms or frost damage," says Bart Vermang.

Student exchange

As a matter of fact, Limburg also shares the focus on solar energy with Norway, the host country for this Belgian Economic Mission chaired by Princess Astrid. "We are therefore pleased to be able to present our Limburg ecosystem here and to exchange our complementary knowledge with Norwegian academic and industrial partners. Here we can start new collaborations that will further increase our production around solar energy, we are sure of that," says Bart Vermang.

Hasselt University will also sign a so-called Memorandum of Understanding with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim during the Princely Mission, in order to enter into even more joint research and educational collaborations in the future. "This fits nicely in the context of our new English-language master's degree in Energy that we are starting within our Faculty of Industrial Engineering (UHasselt/KU Leuven) next year. NTNU has a lot of knowledge in the field of renewable energy and thus offers great opportunities for our students to exchange and share expertise," concludes Bart Vermang.

Bart Vermang


Full professor - PV Technology Research Group