Today, in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino, we have deployed the first ISWEC wave energy converter with gyroscopic architecture moored 800m in front of the north-west coast of Pantelleria, with the support of ENEA and IAMC-CNR and thanks to the fundings received by Piedmont and Sicily Regions.

This prototype is the first Italian 1:1 scale device for the production of electricity from sea waves. The research activities started 10 years ago and were conducted by the group lead by Giuliana Mattiazzo from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Politecnico di Torino. Those activities brought to the development of the technology industrialized by our company. Then, while keeping the collaboration active, our team carried forward the construction of the first pre-commercial ISWEC wave energy device.

Wave Energy Potential

The project stems from the awareness of the enormous potential of waves as a source of renewable energy. The power, usually expressed per unit length of the wave front, ranges from 25 kW/m in Southern Europe (Canary Islands), up to 75 kW/m of the Irish and Scottish coasts. Even in the Mediterranean Sea the available power is significant and is between 4 and 11 kW/m. Extracting only 5% of the technical potential available in Europe (300 GW), wave energy could provide electricity to 12 million homes.

The ISWEC (Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter) technology has followed the directives of the Blue Growth Strategy. This method stems from the European Commission to support sustainable development in the maritime sector. The first ISWEC concept has been developed in 2006. Afterwards, the technology underwent experimental validation with a 1:8 scaled system at the CNR INSEAN towing tank. In February 2012 the team started the work on the final full scale release. In such activity, our team has collaborated with the ENEA’s group directed by Gianmaria Sannino. Within the “Sistema Elettrico” research framework, we decided to bring this wave energy project in Pantelleria.

The Opportunity for Pantelleria

A gyroscopic group housed inside a watertight mono-hull vessel secured to the sea floor by a slack mooring line represent the main components of the wave power unit . The interaction between the sea waves, the hull and the gyroscopic system enables the generation of electricity. The electricity is then transferred to the grid.

Compared to other systems under development in Europe, ISWEC main differentials are:

  • the absence of parts in relative motion immersed the water;
  • the whole conversion group located in a sealed compartment inside the floating body;
  • the avoidance of any fixed constraints to the seabed for its operation;
  • a slack mooring, guaranteeing an extremely reduced environmental impact;
  • the adaptability to changing wave conditions to increase the productivity of the system.

The installed prototype has the following overall dimensions: 8m width, 15m length and 4.5m height. The ISWEC has a draft of 3.2 m, emerging 1.3m from the sea surface. Moored at a distance of about 800m from the shore, ISWEC floats at 35m water depth in the northwest side of the island.

Developing a New Sustainable Source for the Island

In the first phase, before connecting the system to the island’s grid, the ISWEC will dissipate the energy generated . By the end of 2015 an electric cable will be layd down to connect the machine to the grid. The ISWEC system goal is to produce electricity at a more competitive price than currently in Pantelleria. The ISWEC technology is a valuable complement to the energy mix of smaller islands, within and outside the Mediterranean, and which are not directly connected to the main continental grids.

Thanks to a design and industrial optimization process, the R&D teams from Politecnico di Torino and Wave for Energy aim to grid parity targets. This means to bring the cost of electricity from the ISWEC down at the same price of traditional sources. We belive wave energy can become a new sustainable source of renewable energy for Pantelleria.

ENEA and IAMC from Capo Granitola will conduct activities related to the environmental impact assessment. While ENEA will perform the mapping of Posidonia before and after the installation,  CNR, with the research group coordinated by Giuseppa Buscaino, will perform the noise and environmental impact analysis of the device.

The development of the project was possible thanks to the funding obtained from Regione Piemonte and Regione Siciliana and to the special collaboration with ARIS, Landra, UP Design, Università di Catania, Asa Impianti Pantelleria, as well as the support in the development stages of Remacut, SKF, SIEMENS e NATIONAL INSTRUMENTS and the crucial contribution of the administration and the community of the island of Pantelleria.