March 28 (UPI) -- Italian state-owned company Eni has installed a unit that can produce energy from sea waves in a pilot program that could be spread to offshore platforms being phased out.
"This technology is suitable for powering medium and large offshore assets and, in the future, will enable Eni to convert mature offshore platforms into renewable energy generation hubs," the company said in a statement Wednesday.
"Waves are the most underutilized renewable source in the world, with extremely high energy density, high predictability and low variability, making them a very promising future energy source suitable for the decarbonization of offshore processes," Eni said in the statement.
Decarbonization refers to the process of removing carbon dioxide by reducing emissions and carbon from the air.
The pilot plant, which Eni said has "peak power output of 51 kW," was installed at the Ravenna offshore site and has been integrated into "the world's only hybrid smart grid system featuring photovoltaics and energy storage." Ravenna is located along the Adriatic Sea coast about 90 miles south of Venice.
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, ocean wave energy is captured directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface.
According to a recently completed analysis of the U.S. wave energy resource potential, the total energy resources along the outer continental shelf stands at 2,640 terawatt hours per year, of which 1,170 TWH/yr are recoverable. Just like wind power is measured in gigawatts, wave power is usually measured in terawatt hours.
"That is an enormous potential, considering that just 1 TWh/yr of energy will supply around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually," BOEM said
While an abundance of wave energy is available, it is not all recoverable. Not all wave energy can be fully harnessed everywhere for reasons that include other competing uses of the ocean like shipping, commercial fishing, naval operations or environmental concerns in sensitive areas.
Diverse alternatives for decommissioned oil production rigs include using them to install wind power generators. There has been one proposal in the United States for turning them into areas to help preserve marine life.