June 25 - A UK technology company is building the world's first sub-surface wave farm with machines designed to utilise the motion of the Mediterranean Sea for power generation. The first prototype generator - capable of powering 80 homes - is undergoing onshore tests before being towed out to sea to start work next month. Rob Muir reports.
It's a 35 metre long rail, part of a 100 kilowatt wave energy converter that in a few weeks, will be towed out to sea off the Tuscan coast and sunk. Each component of the machine is bouyant. The rails will be suspended by tethers about 25 metres above the Mediterranean sea-floor, allowing the upper section to move in rhythm with the sub-surface waves. Power is generated through the piston-like movement of the arms that connect the two sections. Sea tests will take place over three months. According to Michele Grassi, of developer 40South Energy, the machine's sub-surface profile is crucial to its price and performance. SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHELE GRASSI, CEO AND FOUNDER OF 40SOUTH ENERGY, SAYING: "It is never exposed to excessive loads. That allows you to avoid over-engineering the structure to survive the extreme events that you would have on the surface of the sea. That lowers the cost of the machine and increases actually its capacity factor." The wave farm project's long term goal is to provide clean, inexpensive power to communities along Italy's Tuscan coast. It was commissioned by Italy's largest power company, Enel with an eye to the future, according to Francesco Starace of Enel Green Power. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF ENEL GREEN POWER FRANCESCO STARACE SAYING: "This machine, the size of this machine, feeds for example a hotel and you can imagine a big resort being fed by this kind of size. We think that this is clearly a prototype of a medium, small size. There is an upscale version that goes up to megawatt so we will of course once the tests provide some reliable feedback and information we will certainly be interested in scaling up the size of the machine and getting to the large size." And all the while, says Starace, the generators will remain beneath the surface, invisible to communities on the shore, with the only environmental impact being in the production of clean renewable power.