European oil major Eni is set to switch-on what is claimed to be the world’s first island grid-connected wave energy converter, off the coast of Pantelleria island halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.

The Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC) Pantelleria, installed 800 metres offshore in 35 metres of water, will be able to generate 260kW at peak.

“This experimental campaign, conducted under real operating conditions, will lead to useful results for developing the second-generation device currently under study,” said Eni, which has developed the technology in collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino.

“Wave power is one of the main types of renewable energy and is currently untapped. Suffice it to consider that 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water — 97% of which is made up of seas and oceans,” said Eni, noting calculus that points to a potential 2TW of “sea-wave power” that could be brought online globally to flow 18,000TWh a year onto the grid.

“[This volume of generation] is almost the same as the entire planet’s demand for electricity,” it said.

“Energy from sea waves is also more predictable, constant and of higher energy density than that of the sun and wind, as it is available both during the day and at night.

The ISWEC machine is made up of a steel hull measuring 8 metres x 15 metres that houses a twin-gyroscope energy conversion system, with a three-line mooring system and underwater power cable.

Eni highlighted that it’s ISWEC design could be connected together “perfectly” with other marine renewable energy plant, including offshore wind, “both because it enhances the value of connection systems and because it can be integrated with other facilities in the same sea area, thereby maximising the conversion of available energy”.

“Pantelleria is the first step towards the decarbonisation of the island, in line with the energy transition agenda.”

According to Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) figures, 30.2MW of tidal stream technology has been installed off Europe since 2010, 17.2MW of which has been decommissioned as projects successfully completed testing programmes. Another 12.3MW have been pulled out of the water, leaving very little of the capacity still operational.

Global ocean energy deployments since 2010 now tot up at 41.2MW for tidal and 24.9MW for wave, with Canada emerging as “a highly attractive market” for developers with a project pipeline of 32MW, said OEE, which noted China added more tidal energy capacity than Europe in 2022, via the addition of a 1.6MW turbine at the grid-connected Hangzhou demonstration project off Xiushan Island.