Italian energy company activates wave converter

ISWEC device at sea
ISWEC device at sea
ISWEC is described as an inertial floating offshore rotating mass
ISWEC is described as an inertial floating offshore rotating mass

The Italian energy company Eni recently announced the successful activation of its Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC).

The company hopes it could one day enable it to 'convert mature offshore platforms into renewable energy generation hubs.

During late March, the Italian outfit Eni successfully installed and activated its novel Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC) device, which transforms the power generated by waves into electricity. An innovative feature of the pilot plant, set up at the company's Ravenna offshore site in the Adriatic Sea by the company's Central Northern District unit, is the fact that is has been integrated into what Eni describes as the 'world's only hybrid smart grid system featuring [both] photovoltaics and energy storage.'

According to the company, ISWEC is the first integrated renewable power generation architecture that combines both wave and solar energy.  So far, the plant has reached a peak power output of over 51kW, or 103% of its nominal power - with Eni describing the technology as suitable for powering medium and large offshore assets.  In the future, it hopes it will also enable the company to convert mature offshore platforms into renewable energy generation hubs.

In basic terms, the ISWEC device - which the company likes to call the 'cradle of energy' is an inertial floating offshore rotating mass, capable of extracting energy from sea waves using a combination of a floating hull and the reacting inertial effect of a gyroscope.  This 'cradle' is suitable for powering both medium and large offshore applications - by covering the energy needs of 'almost any offshore oil and gas (O&G) asset and future wave farms.'A key part of the development of ISWEC has been a determination to ensure the device performs a number of important functions simultaneously - namely that it must be powerful, reliable, flexible, versatile and efficient.

According to Eni, the technology is scalable from hundreds of kW up to MW and replicable in wave farms. It is also described as reliable, chiefly by virtue of the fact that none of its moving parts, either mechanical or electric, are exposed to the aggressive conditions of the sea.

Moreover, ISWEC is also viewed by the company as flexible and versatile and able to produce in any kind of sea conditions - mainly because of an innovative design that is capable of resonating with the majority of waves and an innovative self-alignment system, which helps to double productivity.  Finally, Eni describes the device as efficient, because it can produce as much energy as possible at the lowest cost as a result of an integrated active gyroscope control system that allows it to be resonant with waves and highly efficient.

A key feature of the ongoing development of the ISWEC device is Eni's decision to work closely alongside the Politecnico di Torino (PoliTO) - as well as its spin off company Wave for Energy, which the company believes has fostered an awareness of the enormous potential of wave energy - and a recognition of the fact it remains the most unexploited renewable energy resource worldwide.  For Eni, this collaboration is a visible demonstration of the company's ability to integrate academia into the world of business - something it strives to maintain via existing collaboration agreements with the main Italian universities to accelerate the development of innovative technologies, strengthening and supporting industry in Italy.

Ultimately, the company is confident about the long-term prospects for the ISWEC converter, because it is capable of adapting to a variety of different sea conditions to guarantee a high continuity in energy production - coupled with the fact that waves are a very promising future energy source suitable for the decarbonization of offshore processes.

By Andrew Williams

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