ecently we joined forces with ENI to develop the ISWEC to harness sea waves’ largest unused energy potential. It represents and almost untapped resource characterized by extremely high energy density, high predictability, and low variability. Indeed, wave energy energy could be capable of satisfying the annual electricity needs of the entire planet. Therefore, wave energy can contribute to decarbonization processes towards a more sustainable future,.
Enhancing this high potential energy source is the primary objective of Wave for Energy. And our collaboration with Eni has helped to identify the powerful potential of wave motion. In collaboration with Eni, we successfully launched in 2019 the ISWEC system in the Ravenna offshore, the first hybrid plant in the world capable of transforming the energy produced by waves into electricity. By adapting to different sea conditions, this technology guarantees high continuity in energy production. Therefore ISWEC will enable the conversion of mature offshore platforms into hubs for the generation of renewable energy.
The Partnership with Eni to Develop the ISWEC
The successful collaboration with Eni to develop the ISWEC started in December 2017. At that time we partnered with Remacut S.r.l. and Politecnico di Torino for the ISWEC Ravenna project. Together we have developed key solutions for the installation and start-up of the ISWEC system in the Adriatic Sea.
For the development of the ISWEC, ENI will also collaborate with three national “champions”. Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Terna and Fincantieri will support the construction of wave energy power stations on an industrial scale. Each company will share its skills in their respective fields in order to accelerate the progress of the ISWEC technology. CDP stepped in to promote the project with the public administrations and evaluate the most appropriate forms of financial support. Then Fincantieri will contribute with its industrial skills in the field of naval construction for the optimization of the system. And they will also contribute to the execution, construction and installation phases. To conclude, Terna will contribute developing case studies aimed at improving the grid connection methods. And this will also include the analysis of the integration with photovoltaic production plants.
This project represents the beginning of a fundamental collaboration for the future of our company.
How ISWEC works
The ISWEC project was born in 2009 in the MORE Lab of DIMEAS at Politecnico di Torino, under the coordination of Professor Giuliana Mattiazzo. What is now ISWEC was then developed by Wave for Energy, whose driving force has always been the creation of technologies that can contribute to the energy transition towards a sustainable future.
In Ravenna the Eni’s Central Northern District integrated an ISWEC prototype into a unique hybrid smart grid system. In addition to the ISWEC, the latter consists also of a photovoltaic and and energy storage system. The ISWEC machine resembles a large 5x10m floating buoy, with a height of 3,5m and a draft of 2,5m. Internally, it carries two gyroscopic groups, both with a single degree of freedom, connected to electric generators. Regarding the anchoring to the seabed, the ISWEC mooring works to leave the system free to move and swing. Thus, the incoming waves cause the unit to pitch. And the two gyroscopic systems intercept such pitching motion, then transform it into electricity. As a matter of fact, it is, in short, a simple but highly advanced system.
The ISWEC system adopted in the Ravenna installation features two major advantages:
- the machine tunes it working set-up autonomously, according to the changes in the sea conditions;
- no movable mechanical component immersed in the water.
And indeed the above listed solutions simplify the maintenance of the system, while ensuring high continuity in the electricity production.
The prototype, which is progressing towards industrial maturity, to date has reached a peak of power exceeding 51 kW. And thanks to the industrialization efforts with Eni, we plan to replicate the installations of the ISWEC in more sites.
ISWEC is therefore particularly suitable for capturing the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, which are less impressive than those of the ocean, and is perfect for supplying electricity to offshore plants, in particular to Oil & Gas platforms. ISWEC also features safety systems for managing critical situations, such as the occurrence of particularly heavy wave motion. In such conditions, the control system act on the electric generator to make the system completely safe. In addition, the control system is capable of interfacing with external weather forecasts. With such data it predicts the characteristics of the incident wave and generate short-term control signals. As a result, the control system regulate the electric generator and flywheel spin motor also for a long-term adjustment.
The innovative features of ISWEC will overcome the limits that have hitherto held back the development of similar technologies. That leverage wave motion in extreme conditions. The ISWEC system aims to increase the energy self-sufficiency of structures located away offshore from the coast. As well it can represent a viable solution in geographical contexts with unreliable electricity supply. Besides, it can contribute to the reduction of the dependence on oil and non-renewable fossil sources in those territories. In fact, approximately, a full-scale ISWEC system with 260kW capacity could save 68 tons of CO2 emissions per year. ISWEC is an eco-friendly system for marine flora and fauna, as it does not produce noise or vibrations. As demonstrated in Pantelleria, the installation of and ISWEC interdicts the access and fishing in the surrounding marine areas. Therefore, this helps to protect the seabed and the biodiversity of the installation site.