Photo: Illustration/ISWEC device, developed by Italian energy giant Eni with Politecnico di Torino (Courtesy of Ocean Energy Europe)

Italy’s ENEA kicks off first national survey on marine energy

Italian national agency for energy and new technologies ENEA has launched the first national survey on new technologies that exploit energy from tidal currents and sea waves.

Illustration/The Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC), developed by Italian energy giant Eni in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino
Illustration/The Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC), developed by Italian energy giant Eni in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino (Courtesy of Ocean Energy Europe)

The survey, run as part of a joint campaign with Ocean Energy Europe (OEE), European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) and ETIP Ocean, is also taking place simultaneously in the 13 other EU countries of the European task force on energy from the sea, led by ENEA for Italy.

Gianmaria Sannino, head of the ENEA Laboratory of Climate Modeling and Impacts and chair of the European Task Force, said: “The task force will have the task of ‘transitioning’ the sector of marine energy from the current phase of technological development of devices to full commercial operativity by increasing the level of technological maturity of single experimental devices and of the entire industrial chain, the search for financial instruments and the development of environmental standards and certifications”.

According to Maria Vittoria Struglia, another ENEA researcher, the survey will serve for the assessment of the technological progress of the projects and the funds and incentives available at European level.

“There will also be a focus on all the crucial aspects concerning the launching phase of the devices, like the availability of natural laboratories, the network infrastructure, the authorization procedures and the presence or absence of a maritime spatial planning”, added Struglia.

ENEA, short for National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, is a public body aimed at research, technological innovation and the provision of advanced services to enterprises, public administration and citizens in the sectors of energy, the environment and sustainable economic development.

ENEA activities on marine energy are funded by the program agreement with the Ministry of Economic Development, which provide for the construction of a scale prototype of the PeWEC, in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Turin, and its use in laboratory tests in extreme wave conditions.

The ongoing research activities aim at reducing the cost of the energy produced, until reaching an interest value for real applications in an insular environment.

The activities include the study of the predictability of the state of the sea and consequently of the marine energy available in the Mediterranean basin, on a seasonal time scale.

According to the agency, through these studies it will be possible to predict well in advance Mediterranean hurricanes, the so-called medicanes which, due to their size and strength, can put offshore infrastructures at risk.

The European Union has very ambitious objectives in terms of combating climate change, namely zeroing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

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“Meeting these objectives depends also on the sea, since offshore renewable energy technologies have the greatest potential to scale up, as highlighted by the EU strategy published at the end of 2020 ”, Sannino added.

The availability of marine energy resources in Europe is greater along the Atlantic coast but the Mediterranean Sea also offers interesting opportunities both for energy production and technologies development.

ENEA estimates that the areas with the highest potential for wave energy are the western coasts of Sardinia and the Strait of Sicily, where the average energy flow oscillates between 10 and 13kW/m.

In the context of energy transition towards low-carbon technologies, marine energy production in the Mediterranean represents a significant growth opportunity for Italy, ENEA said.

ENEA has encouraged direct contact with the agency to take part in the survey and obtain more information.