Increasing awareness of the adverse impact that conventional energy production can have on the environment has led KM3NeT to explore the possibility of becoming a low-carbon footprint facility using renewable energy sources. The ultimate goal foresees the use of three installation sites, namely Toulon (FR), Capo Passero (IT), and Pylos (GR), each with 2 building blocks of detectors. Each block consists of 115 Detection Units, each of which contains 18 Digital Optical Modules. The energy requirement for each block is estimated to about 27 kW.
In the context of the KM3NeT-INFRADEV project, a plan was made for making the three installation sites of KM3NeT carbon neutral facilities using renewable energy sources. The possible technological solutions, legal issues, collaboration opportunities and funding schemes were investigated.
Energy requirement of KM3NeT
For each installation site, the energy requirement, including 2 building blocks, and the shore station is below 150 kW. For 24 hours operation, 7 days a week, this translates to 1,3 GWh per year. This amount of energy, can be easily supplied by either wind turbines or solar panels, which means that KM3NeT can easily become the first large scale infrastructure with an almost zero-carbon footprint using renewable energy sources.
The average wind profile for all 3 installation sites is quite favourable for electric power generation from the wind. The wind speed in the 3 sites varies throughout the year, and the average speed is between 710 m/s. At such wind speeds, wind turbines are capable of delivering the required power. Indeed, it has already been explored commercially, as in the Pylos site, for instance there exists a wind turbine farm within a few kilometres from the shore station. The required power can be easily delivered by turbines rated at 600 kW in each site, which at average market values means an investment of about 1200 k€ per site, including estimates for the related infrastructure and installation space.
Using solar panels
Solar panels could be an alternative solution to wind, as the Mediterranean area benefits from significant sunshine throughout the year. Typically, sunshine ranges from 4 hours in the winter to 12 hours in the summer, which averages out to around 8 hours of sunshine in a year. Solar panels rated at 150 W which are common, would provide 1,2 kWh of power per day averaged throughout the year. With a conservative downscaling to 1 kWh, this would translate to around 4500 square metres of solar panels per site to provide the necessary 1,3 GWh per year. At a current cost of 1.2–2 € per watt, each site would need an investment of 800–1200 k€ for the solar panels, plus the cost of the installation site. The above-mentioned costs are quite reasonable and manageable, considering that they correspond to a few percent of the total cost of KM3NeT.
With infrastructure lifetimes greater than 20 years and the wide availability of different options and solutions in the market, it is an attractive solution for the energy needs of the experiment. In addition, the proliferation of wind and solar panel energy parks in all 3 countries in question, means that there is a distinct possibility to liaise with existing such facilities and/or collaborate with local and regional authorities to enlarge the scope of such a facility for the benefit of the broader community and region.
Feasibility of tide or waves
Feasibility study for the development of a tidal or wave energy system able to supply the on shore and off shore infrastructure was approached. This study took into consideration the technology, the size (power) of the system, the installation site and type. This system could be developed in cooperation with the local authority and/or electrical power companies. As three sites are involved, separate parallel activities were conducted, in order to be adapted to local contexts.
Associated deliverables were published in the Project outputs section:
- D10.1 – KM3NeT Report on contacts/discussions with power companies / local authorities / potential partners
- D10.2 – KM3NeT Report on Carbon legal issues
- D10.3 – KM3NeT-techno-economic study
- D10.4 – Renewable energy support and funding schemes, plans for the future
KM3NeT-INFRADEV was supported by the European Commission Framework Programme Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation action under grant agreement n. 739560.