Eni has completed the installation of the world’s first ISWEC (Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter) device connected to the electricity grid of an island. It is located about 800 metres off the coast of the island of Pantelleria and can reach 260 kilowatts of peak power generation converted from wave energy. This experimental campaign, conducted under real operating conditions, will lead to valuable results for developing the second-generation device currently under study.
Eni developed ISWEC in collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino and Wave for Energy s.r.l. (a spinoff of the university). It is an innovative technology in offshore renewable energy solutions, converting wave motion into electricity which then supplies energy to offshore infrastructure, small off-grid islands and coastal communities. ISWEC design can be optimised concerning the metocean conditions of the site where it is installed by means of a genetic algorithm that leverages the significant computing power of Eni’s Green Data Centre (GDC) based in Ferrera Erbognone.
The machine consists of a steel hull measuring 8 x 15m, which houses the energy conversion system, composed of two gyroscopic units, each more than 2m in diameter. The device is placed in a 35m deep seabed by a special mooring system that responds to weather and sea conditions, consisting of three mooring lines and a swivel (a rotating joint). The electricity produced is transmitted ashore via an underwater electric cable.
Wave power is one of the main types of renewable energy and is currently untapped. Suffice it to consider that 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water (97% of which is made up of seas and oceans). The power that could be generated from sea waves is estimated at around 2 terawatts globally, for a total of 18,000 terawatt-hours a year, almost the same as the entire planet’s demand for electricity.
Energy from sea waves is also more predictable, constant and of higher energy density than that of the sun and wind, as it is available both during the day and at night. A further advantage of this technology is the considerable reduction of its impact on the landscape since the device stands only 1 metre above seawater. Moreover, ISWEC can be integrated perfectly with other offshore renewable energy production systems, such as wind power generators, because it enhances the value of connection systems and can be integrated with other facilities in the same sea area, thereby maximising the conversion of available energy.
The ISWEC technology is part of Eni’s decarbonisation plan. The EU Commission mentioned it in its strategy on offshore renewable energy as a key example of sea wave energy conversion. The installation of the ISWEC in Pantelleria is the first step towards the decarbonisation of the island, in line with the energy transition agenda.
Image source: Courtesy of Eni
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