Steps forward through Tuscan waters for the wave energy converter, the device to convert marine waves into electric current that has been under development since 2007 by 40South Energy, a Pisa based company founded by the innovative energy’s thinker, Michele Grassi. The fist commercial model of the marine generator developed by 40South, acquired by Italy’s renewable energy leader, ENEL Green Power, has passed onto the second phase of testing, which will bring it to full functionality, while the alliance between the two companies is already at work to develop a new, more powerful prototype. The device, moored at sea, is composed of a lower portion that includes two 36-meter “rails” and an upper portion measuring 115 cubic meters, and is able to adapt to the wave motion without creating any disturbances for navigation. The marine generator is devised to work in connection with the electric network in group of 3 to 4 machines, or to supply islands and isolate communities with a consumption of 150 kW, or even more, in places where the energy produced can be stored.

The first testing phase for model R115 of the marine generator, which has a nominal capacity of 150kW and is capable of producing approximately 220,000 kWh per year – sufficient to satisfy the consumption of more than 80 families – was completed in the beginning of 2014. The tests confirmed the machine’s expected performance in a marine environment, and the extreme ease of installation, while also allowing for the identification of a series of refinements to increase durability at sea. The second phase of experimental testing carried out by ENEL Green Power, again carried out offshore from Punta Righini in Toscana, will be aimed at optimizing the materials used and the functional layout, with the goal of installing other converters in the future, not only in the Mediterrenean Sea, but also in ocean environments, specifically in Chile and the United States. The final placement of model R115, once all the test are completed and the permits secured, will be the Elba Island, where it will be connected to the electric network.

“It works like a jellyfish that moves with the sea, and it is precisely this movement that produces energy – explained creator Michele Grassi at the presentation of phase 2 of testing, at the end of January – It always remains under water while working, at a depth of 25 meters, while it surfaces for maintenance. This spring, it will be brought to Elba and connected to the electric network. This will be followed by a larger model, capable of producing 2 megawatts.” ENEL Green Power and 40South Energy are in fact already working on a larger version of the marine generator, with the same functional logic and the same characteristics of the model currently being perfected. “Until now, no one had produced energy from the sea – highlighted ENEL Green Power managing director, Francesco Starace. This technology convinced us for a number of reasons. Because it is safe: the necessary maintenance can be carried out on the surface. It is safe for navigation because it has an auto-sinking system to avoid collisions with ships with enough draught to impact it, and is built of normal materials. Additionally, it lends itself to work well into the future, because there are always waves, and it occupies relatively little spece compared to technologies like wind or solar power.”

Meanwhile, the 40South Energy projects is moving forward on other markets where, sometimes through local partnerships, the company has already requested permission to install farms to produce energy from marine waves, such as in the United Kingdom and India. 40South Energy currently has three offices, in Italy, London, and Palo Alto in California. The Italian company is involved in technological research and development, beyond building and testing prototypes of the marine generator. 

In partnership with IlSole24ore