The Future of Green Energy is Blue

According to estimates from the European Ocean Energy Association, around 3.6 gigawatts of marine energy capacity will be installed in Europe by 2020, and 188 GW by 2050. These figures highlight the growth potential of the newest of renewable energy sources, which is set to well exceed its current 0.02 percent share of capacity within the European energy mix (IEA 2012).

Underwater dams and windmills as well as mechanical spiders and snakes are among the names used to describe the technologies that harness current and wave energy, terms that show how the general public still sees this sector as experimental, bordering on science-fiction. The truth is however that marine energy is developing in line with the huge power potential concealed in the ocean.

For blue growth, a term that brings together all production activities connected with the sea, including fishing, tourism and navigation, the development of tide, current and wave energy technology is becoming increasingly important. In Europe alone, the blue economy already employs 5.4 million people and generates almost €500 billion per year. However, the EU says that some sectors show larger margins for growth and among those sectors in Europe – which has a number of countries on the ocean and others on the Mediterranean, Baltic, North and Black seas – is marine energy.

Innovation will necessary in order to free the energy of the sea, and while some marine energy technologies are already showing serious limitations, others are responding very well. For years Enel Green Power has been a participant in this revolution through its embracing of open innovationand global research and development partnerships.

The R115 marine generator, which by the end of 2014 will be connected to the electricity grid of Italy’s Elba Island, is the first example of EGP’s open innovation in the field. This device not only harnesses tides, like most marine energy facilities, but also waves, and due to this it is suitable for both the Mediterranean and ocean water. The R115 machine is so slim that it disappears under the surface of the sea and has no impact on the surrounding environment, but it also has reticular metal structures that reach a length of up to 38 metres. It’s agile enough to move along with the waves when looking for the best energy generation conditions, but it’s also big enough that its smallest structural element – the upper member – has a volume of 115 cubic metres. EGP’s machine distinguishes itself in the marketplace not only for its technical features, but also for its competitiveness and sustainability, thanks to an installed capacity of 36 megawatts per square kilometre and an estimated production of 60 gigawatt-hours per square kilometre in Italian waters.

The Marine energy research and innovation centre (MERIC) set to be built in Chile will see Enel Green Power take part in an international partnership with the DCNS group and the Chilean government that aims to create an innovative global centre of excellence for marine energy development. The MERIC will gather researchers to support work related to marine resource assessment, site characterisation, bio fouling, bio-corrosion, environmental and social impacts, and the adaptation of technology to extreme ocean conditions. The experts will also begin developing tools to test and adapt MRE technologies to the country’s unique natural conditions: seismic activity, a rugged coastline and a particularly rich and diverse array of marine flora and fauna. MERIC will implement an innovative, integrated approach to R&D in the sector, which includes the installation of an experimental wave energy converter to serve as a ‘validation test bench, enabling comparison of theoretical results with real world data.

Source: Enel Green Power S.p.A.
Date: Nov 6, 2014