Oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface: an enormous body of water, key to the development and safeguarding of life and to climate regulation. But oceans and seas are also an enormous reservoir of potential renewable energy, hidden – but becoming more and more visible – in the waves and tides.
Unlike more established forms of renewable energy like solar and wind, marine energy is still very young. The numerous technologies designed to use this energy are not yet fully mature.
To take stock of the current situation in marine energy and explore the main development trends of the coming years, 600 of the most important industry experts worldwide came to the marine station of Naples from 2 to 6 September for the thirteenth edition of the European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC), the biannual international conference dedicated to marine-source renewable technologies.
Enel Green Power, which considers the energy of the sea a global construction site in constant evolution, was the main sponsor of the EWTEC in Naples. In speeches by Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of EGP, and Giovanni Tula, Head of Innovability for EGP, EGP’s ideas and solution for the future of marine energy were presented.
“Stable, predictable and always available: marine energy has enormous potential distributed evenly around the world. Enel Green Power continues to explore the marine energy sector in search of effective, competitive and scalable technologies to transform tides and waves into sustainable energy.”
– Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of Enel Green Power
The Energy of the Sea
According to Ocean Energy System 2014 and Ocean Energy Europe 2016, by 2050, marine energy, whether from tides or waves, will help produce nearly 340 GW of energy globally, 100 GW of which will come from Europe alone.
To achieve this enormous potential as efficiently and beneficially as possible, first we need to further develop the two large families involved in marine energy production systems: one using the motion of the tides, the other using the movement of the waves.
For the first, since 2014, the industry has seen a gradual convergence towards the technology of horizontal axis wind turbines, a system of production that is conceptually similar to wind turbines.
The range of technologies linked to waves is more developed, with more than 2/3 of testing involving point absorbers, where the motion of the waves induces vertical movements that are transformed into energy, oscillating wave surge converters, which use waves to move an aileron, and attenuators, floating systems with special pumps inside, activated by wave patterns.
These are brand new technologies, which will come to complete development – both economic and technological – in the coming years. Today, marine energy is undergoing the same process of gradual development as wind power in the past, which has led to the production of today’s large-scale, three-blade systems, now efficient and competitive.
Once fully mature, thanks to the huge potential available, its widespread availability, stability and predictability, marine energy could become a particularly advantageous renewable source, key to the energy transition.
“Marine energy will be a fantastic complement to other renewable energy sources (solar, hydropower and wind) and will be a key element for the energy transition of the near future.”
– Giovanni Tula, Head of Innovability EGP
Enel Green Power’s Marine Energy
For several years now, Enel Green Power has been pursuing the most promising paths to identify and test the most effective, competitive and scalable technologies to transform the treasure of the sea into clean and sustainable energy.
This is why EGP is constantly searching for new tech solutions and open to collaboration with research centers, startups, large companies and SMEs from around the world.
In Italy, for example, EGP is working with a startup from Pisa, 40South Energy on H24, a small device placed near the coast, made up of a fixed piece located on the bottom of the sea or a small structure and a mobile piece that moves with the waves.
With the Finnish company AW-Energy, we are working on the WaveRoller, a submerged underwater converter made up of a panel connected to the sea floor and placed near the coast.
Wello OY, the producer of the WEC Penguin, is also Finnish. This is a rotating eccentric mass connected to a generator, installed inside a hull in order to use the pitching and rolling energy of the waves.
Then there’s the CETO system, developed by the Australian company Carnegie Clean energy over the last ten years: a submerged buoy that, using triple mooring, activates three generators inside the buoy.
And EGP also works alongside research centers like the Chilean Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center (MERIC), which aims to develop marine energy in the South American country. In addition, EGP has recently signed a MoU - Memorandum of Understanding - with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) that aims to encourage knowledge-sharing about the development of marine technologies and about performance assessment, as well as to promote collaboration on marine energy test projects.