Deep-sea windfarms to be feasible by 2020

New research pioneered by the University of Malta suggests it is possible to operate a wind farm at depths of up to 70 metres.

Deep-sea wind-farms have been rejected in the past as unsuitable for Malta owing to the perceived impossibility of operating a wind farm at depths of more than 40 metres.

But new research pioneered by the University of Malta suggests that it is possible to operate a wind farm at depths of up to 70 metres, and while the cost of such a project are prohibitive at present, technological advances may make the idea feasible by 2020 at the earliest.

These were among the conclusions reached by a team of researchers at the University of Malta's energy technology department, for a project funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology.

The Deep Offshore Wind Project has identified a stretch of sea to the south-east of Malta as suitable for a large wind farm at such depths, and which according to researchers could produce up to 40% of Malta's current electricity generation. The project's main aim was to carry out a feasibility study on a locally developed large wind farm, custom built to take Malta's specific exigencies and environment into consideration.

Researchers expressed optimism that the project can become reality, provided additional funding is provided. But at present-day costs, the technology does not come cheap.

In a detailed presentation at MCST in Bighi, Kalkara, researchers such as Dr Tonio Sant explained that a combination of custom-built, heavy duty steel structures, logistical expenses including transport of material from the North Sea, and wear and tear attributable to weather conditions could result in a capital investment of up to €1.5 billion. At these prices the cost of electricity is estimated at 24c per unit: suggesting that electricity bills may even be pushed up from the present rate of 17c.

However, Dr Sant explained that by 2020, the efficiency of the technology will have improved to a degree that would allow for greater power generation, while at the same time global interest in renewable energy sources will entice more suppliers to enter the market, creating more competition and pushing costs down by as much as 30 to 40%.

At these prices, the technology will become feasible, and Malta would be able to benefit from the advantage of a clean renewable energy source that will help the country reach its EU-imposed target to reduce emissions by 10%.

However, the project will take time and it is unlikely that the desired results will be achieved within the stipulated deadline of 2020.

Addressing the same conference, Parliamentary Secretary for Research Innovation Youth and Sport, Stefan Buontempo, also announced that European Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will be visiting Malta shortly to launch the Horizons 2020 project, through which the European Union intends to achieve global competitiveness through investment in research and innovation. Buontempo said that the European Commissioner's visit, on the invitation of the Maltese government, confirms Malta's commitment to embed research and innovation into Malta's economic strategy.

We can't even afford to take care of infrastructure properly on land: imagine on the sea! The costs will be prohibitive and this is nothing but sheer lunacy coming out of the University! We can, perhaps,afford these turbines on land; on the west coast starting from Cirkewwa up to Benghisa. Malta is a little barren rock, the state coffers were left in shambles by PN and the Maltese companies and the ordinary citizens have little or no money to spare! We should get our priorities right and stop talking as if we are an ordinary large European country: we are not, and what keeps us going is our determination, our hard work and our nationalistic values ( our love for the island) and all 'big' and 'altruistic' talk should start from these basic values/platform!