Despite the fact that the EU is willing to fund renewable energy in its climate laggard states, using cap & trade revenues from the sale of emission allowances, Malta still gets only 1% of its electricity from renewable energy. This is by far the worst performance in the EU. Only Cyprus has done as little.
The EU as a whole averages 20% renewable energy now, led by nations like Germany, Spain and Denmark, as a result of the tough climate legislation that EU members have agreed to, that led to the development of a whole new clean energy industry.
As an EU member Malta is required to produce at least 10% of its energy from renewables by 2020. But it has moved just in time to meet the target.
The Swedish company Hexicon has filed a project description statement (PDS) with Maltese authorities for an intriguing offshore wind farm with 36 turbines set on a hexagon-shaped 460-metre-wide platform. If its application succeeds, along with the funding for it through the EU cap & trade scheme (via Ner300), the plant could start operations in June 2014.
Because its land mass is so small, the tiny island nation – far out in the Mediterranean Sea below Italy – had long planned for a floating offshore wind project to meet the requirement.
Wind farms on floating platforms is the most viable option for Malta as it can exploit wind force from whichever direction the wind is blowing at the time.
If approved the project would represent full circle in the government’s policy with regard to wind energy. Its original plan in 2006 was to meet its Kyoto targets using floating offshore wind projects, because the island of Malta is sited in such deep water that it would not be economical and feasible to construct fixed offshore wind farms.
But the technology for floating wind farms like this one was still at an experimental stage back then, and in 2008, the new government in Malta relented and revised its policy allowing for a near shore windfarm at Sikka l-Bajda and two smaller land based farms in Hal Far and Bahrija.
A lot has happened in offshore wind energy development since 2006. The EU now leads the world with 141 GW (1 GW is 1,000 MW) of offshore wind in the pipeline. And floating offshore wind projects are now state of the art.
The technology for large-scale, floating platforms for wind and wave power was analyzed and reviewed by the Swedish Energy Agency, the Malta Resources Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment of the Republic of Cyprus, and if approved, the EU will support Hexicon in its Ner300 investment program for renewable energy.
A location on the northeast of Malta 11 nautical miles from shore, where water depths vary between 100 and 150 metres, has already been identified for floating the wind power station. A cable would link the wind-farm to an offshore substation. The platform is anchored by cable, but is able to turn 360 degrees within 30 minutes.
The 54MW capacity floating wind farm will produce about 9% of the energy currently generated by the two existing power stations, about twice that projected from the proposed Sikka l-Bajda windfarm, which would have been on poles sunk in the sea bed in shallower waters.
Hexicon says in the PDS that its floating wind farm, supplying 9% of Malta’s electricity will enable Malta to meet its EU commitment to generate 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 (assuming that this is in addition to the small land-based wind farm producing the other 1%.)
It also proposes what the Maltese paper puts incredulously in quotes as “a claim” of “the production of energy at a more competitive rate than oil based power generating facilities”.
It may seem implausible that a novel technology, invented within the last five years, could produce cheaper energy than one for which the infrastructure is already in place, but island nations can spend a lot of money importing the heavy oil to run power plants.
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