In this paper the feasibility of wave energy exploitation off the Italian coasts is investigated. At this aim, the energy production and the performance characteristics of three of the most promising and documented wave energy converters (AquaBuOY, Pelamis and Wave Dragon) are estimated for two of the most energetic Italian locations. The sites are Alghero, on the western coast of Sardinia and Mazara del Vallo, on the Sicily Strait and they have respectively an average annual wave power of 10.3 kW/m and 4 kW/m, and an available annual wave energy of 90 MWh/m and 35 MWh/m.
The energy production of the hypothetical wave farms is calculated based on the performance matrices of the wave energy converters (WECs) and on 21 years of wave buoy records, covering the period from 1990 to 2011. The estimated capacity factors are low (between 4% and 9%) compared to the ones obtained for the same wave energy converters in other locations and are affected by a strong seasonal variability. This indicates that the considered WECs are oversized with respect to the local wave climate and that a more efficient energy conversion would be obtained if they were downscaled according to the typical wave height and period of the study sites. As a consequence of the optimization of the device scale, at Alghero the deployment of 1:2.5 AquaBuOY, Pelamis or Wave Dragon devices would result in capacity factors around 20% and in a quite constant energy production throughout the year. In fact, the size reduction of the wave energy converters allows to capture the energy of the small waves which would otherwise be lost with the original WECs.
The results of the present work suggest that deploying classic wave energy converters in Italian seas would not be cost effective but if the devices could accommodate a proper downscaling, their performance in energy conversion would become economically attractive also for some Italian locations.