The BLUE OCEAN ENERGY Project
Intro prepared by Prof. Aldo Drago, Director, IOI-Malta Operational Centre
Marine-based renewable energy technologies offer a great potential for energy extraction from the sea.
In the case of the Maltese Islands, the very restricted space available on land is compensated by the highest ratio (»12) amongst European nations of available marine space with respect to land territory, considering the extent of territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles.
Sea depths increase rapidly around most of the coast, especially on the southern perimeter of the Maltese Islands, and this poses a constraint on the location of offshore energy extraction installations.
Energy from offshore sea waves is a very realistic option for the Maltese Islands, offering opportunities not only from direct benefits deriving from local installations, but also in developing tradeable expertise in the related technologies.
Wave energy constitutes a likely avenue for supporting energy demands through the use of renewables, to meet expected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, as well as to achieve international competence in research and related applications at the production and service levels. Collaborative research into the potential of offshore wave energy in Malta is an open challenge and is expected to trigger funding through EU collaborative opportunities.
Wave energy technology is still in its infancy with a number of initiatives gathering significant experience and succeeding to provide proof of concept. Although the significant wave heights observed in the Mediterranean Sea are considerably lower than those observed in the North Sea where research on wave energy extraction is most prolific , it is believed that wave energy may still offer potential in Malta with certain concepts.
Preliminary wave climatology studies for the Central Mediterranean and the Maltese Islands have been conducted within the Interreg IIIB MEDOCC WERMED (Weatherrouting dans la Méditerranée) Project through the Physical Oceanography Unit (PO-Unit) of the IOI-Malta Operational Centre, University of Malta. The best sites in the Maltese Waters would be those located at the Western coast, given that these are more exposed to the prevailing North-Westerly winds.This behaviour is respected also at a seasonal level with lower wave height intensity in spring and summer, and higher height intensity in winter and autumn. Stronger wave fields to the SW of Malta occur in an area of prohibitive sea depths.
The BLUE OCEAN ENERGY® (BOE) project aims to adapt and test the feasibility of the DEXAWAVE converter as a means of extracting energy from sea waves in the Maltese coastal sea areas. The converter is based on a technology developed by Dexawave Energy ApS and promises to be an innovative, simple, cost-effective and competitive source of electrical power.
A 1:10 scale model of the converter will be constructed and deployed to assess and adapt the performance of the converter to the local wave climate. This experience shall establish the extent to which the eventual full scale project is likely to meet the needs of its beneficiaries in terms of reliable and competitive CO2 neutral wave energy off shore Malta. A dedicated wave buoy will be deployed to make direct real time observations of sea wave conditions at a selected site at sea.
This project is coordinated by DEXAWAVE Energy Malta Ltd which will be responsible for the construction and deployment of the DEXAWAVE Energy converter prototype. The University of Malta is being represented in the project by the Physical Oceanography Unit (PO-Unit) of the IOI-Malta Operational Centre (IOI-MOC) which will be responsible to model and observe the wave characteristics of the seas around the Maltese Islands, as well as the Institute of Sustainable Energy (IES) which will be responsible for the analysis of the power generation data.
The PO-Unit will be utilising its experience and expertise in wave modelling and analysis. It will be using high resolution wave models and data to define a wave climatology around the Maltese Islands. The analysis of such a climatology will serve as a basis to identify and map the wave energy resource. The PO-Unit will be also monitoring and analysing the wave conditions at the location of the converter.
The project is set as an example of an academic-industry joint initiative. Once this project is successfully completed it is expected to pave the way for the generation of clean electrical energy at advantageous costs.