Marine renewables: Nantes-based startup HelioRec raises funds to develop its floating solar stations

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Specialising in the design of floating solar power plants, Nantes-based startup HelioRec has just raised €2 million to improve its floating system technology and expand its presence in France and Denmark. It has recently installed a floating solar plant in the port of Brest.

Photovoltaic energy is the ideal solution to soaring fossil fuel prices. Although it currently occupies a very small share of the market, the solar energy industry has experienced strong growth in recent years. However, its main problem is that it requires a lot of land. Solar power plants, such as those developed by the start-up HelioRec, are emerging to take advantage of underutilised bodies of water. 

A promising technology

Riding the crest of the ever-growing marine renewable energy market, Nantes-based startup HelioRec is designing floats for the floating photovoltaic power plant market. They are made of recycled plastic waste. Known as Hydro-Lock, the floats can be stabilised by being filled  with water instead of traditional ballast materials such as metal or concrete. 

The company is particularly targeting them to offshore projects where severe weather conditions put installations to the test. Simulations have suggested that Heliorec’s floats could “withstand waves up to 2 metres high”, according to Polina Vasilenko, CEO of HelioRec, during an interview for French magazine L’Usine Nouvelle

The prospects for floating photovoltaics are promising. As well as saving land space, HelioRec believes that these water-based installations have an advantage because they can improve the performance of solar panels and increase electricity production. There are also many possible uses, from the production of clean electricity to integration into other sectors such as hydrogen production or aquaculture. 

Several prototypes already installed

HelioRec recently installed a demonstrator of its technology in the port of Brest. Following Ostend in Belgium and the AK-Gel lake in Russia, Brest is the third port to host the Atlantic France startup’s installations. This new facility has a capacity of 25 KW. 

In the short term, the company wants to develop projects of 1 to 5 MW in France and Denmark, and is targeting ports, shipyards and coastal communities looking to decarbonise their activities. Considered by many to be the future of photovoltaics, floating solar power is experiencing significant growth: the market could reach 4.8 gigawatts by 2026.

A €2 million round of financing

HelioRec is in the process of finalising a €2 million fundraising round, according to the economic newsletter Lettre API. €1.2 million has already been secured from First Imagine!, Techstars Paris Sustainable Accelerator and Bpifrance. The funds will be used to improve the floating systems technology and prepare for commercial launch. 

Investments are also planned to optimise production by relocating from Estonia to France. Supported by Centrale Nantes, the startup employs 8 people and 2 PhD students from Cranfield University. The company plans to recruit around ten more people by 2025.

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