Our company is developing a novel offshore hybrid renewable energy system to be installed in west coast of Sardinia. In fact, Wave for Energy is collaborating with Parco Speciale di Porto Conte in the municipality of Alghero (SS). There we will deploy the first prototype to supply offshore electricity and desalinated water to the surrounding territory.
The research project, named “Waves4Water“, started on June 1st, 2021 in Porto Conte Park. The project is located in the Sea of Sardinia, one of the most energetic areas of the Mediterranean Sea. The goal was to develop a system that could harness the power of the waves braking along the coastline. In fact, the coastline where the Porto Conte Park is located, boasts a potential of 13 kW/m.
Its high environmental diversity makes it home to numerous animal and plant species. In the Park you can encounter various communities of flora and fauna, such as:
High coastal systems;
In the Park area researchers have identified about 800 species of vascular plants. Approximately 60 species are of conservation value, forming as many as 60 different plant communities.
The Park’s most impactful and critical issues are the long periods of drought, especially during the summer, which hamper the agricultural production system carried out in the contiguous area. There exist ways to overcome these negative circumstances, however. In areas with similar problems as Porto Conte Park, the ISWEC system can be an excellent solution. ISWEC, Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter, is the first experimental plant in the world for integrated wave and photovoltaic generation, created in collaboration with Eni. The ISWEC machine, already in operation just offshore from Ravenna, resembles a large floating buoy and works by means of an inertial system that employs even the smallest waves. This type of application is perfect for promoting energy self-sufficiency in geographic contexts where electricity supply is not easy.
Nonetheless, Wave for Energy, by winning a tender process organised by the public administration “Parco Speciale di Porto Conte”, had the task to design, develop, deploy and test an innovative solution to specifically address the needs identified by the Park for its surrounding territory. During the activities, we developed the novel WEPA energy converter.
Designing a Novel Offshore Renewable Energy Solution
To support the green transition efforts promoted by the Park, we developed the WEPA (Water Energy Point Absorber). Our company has developed a thorough numerical modeling effort, detailed design analysis and laboratory testing. The outcome is a novel offshore hybrid renewable energy system, integrating a wave energy converter and a desalination system.
The system consists in a floating-point absorber Wave Energy Converter (WEC) integrated with a reverse osmosis desalination system. The combination of these two technologies and the optimization of the coupling will help address the challenges of water and energy supply in a particularly sensitive environment such as that of Porto Conte. The system developed by Wave for Energy is flexible and can operate in different conditions and sea states, it is easy to use and maintain, and above all it does not impact the landscape and the marine environment.
Furthermore, the small size and the shape of the “point absorber” technology allows the device to always align with the incident waves and therefore to be able to absorb power from all directions. In addition, point absorbers have the advantage of being easily built and installed. This has a significant impact on costs throughout their life cycle, allowing energy to be supplied at competitive prices. By installing more point absorbers in a wave farm configuration, it is possible to supply large quantities of electricity, thus satisfying the needs of even larger isolated communities. In order to further increase the production of renewable electricity, some photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine will also be integrated on the upper part of the float.
The innovation of this project lies in the coupling and optimisation of the individual components, which maximize productivity, reduce costs, and help create an energy community based on renewable energy generation and on-site self-consumption with multiple benefits.
Since our company was founded, we have always promoted the concept of sustainability. That’s why, during all the phases of the project (design, production, transport, use, decommissioning and recovery / disposal) Wave for Energy will apply an approach based on the principle of Life Cycle Thinking. Therefore, we analysed the environmental, economic and social impacts of the entire life cycle of the system under construction. Specifically, the improvement solutions considered for Porto Conte relate to the following aspects of the life cycle:
Environmental sustainability of the materials used;
Evaluation and quantification of the pollution produced;
Identification of potential environmental impacts associated with the O&M phases of the innovative system;
Methods of treatment and disposal of waste produced during the activity of renewable energy production and desalination.
Objectives of the Innovation Project
The primary objective of the collaborative project is to introduce and disseminate a novel offshore hybrid renewable energy generation system. Moreover, the hybrid customisable power generation modules must target a net zero environmental impact. And furthermore, they should pursue the goal to significantly broadening the potential for applications in multiple geographies and conditions. In particular, the devices will be adaptable to isolated areas such as that of Porto Conte. In such contexts, the adoption of WEPA technologies can create energy and clean water self-sufficiency.
The main objectives and results expected at the end of the project are:
combine different technologies into a novel offshore hybrid renewable energy solution for desalinated water and electricity production;
Improve the economic sustainability of the energy generation and desalination processes;
Make the desalination process self-sufficient through the use of the energy produced by the sea waves;
Demonstrate potential for progressive energy and water independence;
Increase the percentage of energy production from renewable sources.
Conclusion: towards the deployment of the first WEPA
The WEPA project is currently undergoing the final assembly preparatory for the factory acceptance test of the device. Afterward, once completed, the system will be transported to the Park for its deployment and installation. Consequently, Wave for Energy is collaborating with local experts and authorities for the final stages of the project. The next steps will foresee an initial offshore test campaign to test the technology response to a real operating environment.
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