Italy fails to exploit wind energy as it could

Italy fails to exploit wind energy as it could
Italy fails to exploit wind energy as it could

Ten turbines 100 meters high planted in the outer harbor of the port of Taranto, ten rotors of 126 meters in diameter capable of producing 30 MW of green energy, a saving of 730 thousand tons of CO2 in 25 years. Beleolico is expected to become operational as early as the first months of 2022 and will be the first offshore wind farm in the Mediterranean.

The energy produced off the coast of Taranto “represents a milestone in the world of renewables, a fundamental signal for the energy transition in Italy”, says Andrea Porchera, head of institutional relations at Renexia, the company that is taking care of the project. «The construction of this wind farm is the demonstration that a new, sustainable and effective approach to energy production is possible. We are the first to realize it in the Mediterranean Sea and from this point of view we ask ourselves how first mover and we trust that our example will help to encourage the production of clean energy thanks to new offshore technologies ».

Wind, like other renewables, will play a fundamental role in the path towards decarbonisation. But at the moment it still weighs too little on total electricity production.

Terna data show that the wind power installed in Italy as at 30 June 2021 was almost 11 GW, i.e. just over 7.5% of national production, with about 90% of wind power plants concentrated in the South and in the islands (for reasons linked to the productivity of the sites, i.e. the wind available).

“In the plans that Italy has sent to Brussels to indicate its path towards decarbonization, the production of energy from wind should double between now and 2030, up to 20 GW: it is a question of adding 1GW every year”, he says to Linkiesta Simone Togni, president of the National Wind Energy Association (Anev, brings together over 2 thousand subjects including producers and operators of electricity obtained from wind sources).

In reality, the targets set by the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan have already been adjusted: the reduction of half of emissions by 2030 has been increased to -55%, so the increase in production should be even faster. But the current pace of growth will not allow us to reach the targets, since only 1 GW has been installed since 2019 and today we have just 3 GW more than in 2012.

“In terms of resources, space and technology, the potential to achieve the objectives would be there,” says Togni. “Our studies – he continues – show that Italy could produce up to 26 GW from onshore wind, to which must be added a potential between 5 and 10 GW from offshore wind that is not present in the analyzes because it is becoming a reality only now, at least for us “.

But those who want to invest in renewables do not always have an easy path ahead of them. For years, the views cut by the wind turbines have agitated the committees of the no, which curb the environmentalist push of those who want to focus on wind power, or photovoltaics – that is, in energy sources that need a lot of space, and inevitably change the appearance of a territory.

Wind power companies, however, have a unanimous opinion on what is the number one obstacle to their projects: the Ministry of Culture and the Superintendencies.

In 70% of cases, the slowdown in the installation of photovoltaic and wind energy systems is caused by the Superintendencies. And the landscape constraints, at the moment, stall 3 GW of renewable plants even if they have a favorable Environmental Impact Assessment.

“Normally it takes four years and nine months, on average, for the approval of wind power projects,” says the president of Anev Simone Togni. It is the Italian bureaucracy that works like a black hole and makes things that end up nearby disappear. «The Superintendency itself often suggests resorting to the TAR, because then the appeal is won. Except that the appeal lasts 4 years, to which must be added the time necessary to obtain the authorization: it means that at the time of building a wind farm the technology chosen is already old ”, explains Togni.

Hence the offshore can become a solution capable of changing the perspective of the production of clean energy: the first advantage concerns precisely the occupation of the land. Or rather, the soil that is not occupied.

Also for this reason, in June the Ministry for Ecological Transition gave the green light for the presentation of offshore projects and in a short time it received 39 expressions of interest. The projects are mostly located in the South, in the lower Adriatic on the Puglia side, in the Ionian Sea, in the Strait of Sicily and around the southern tip of Sardinia; then there is a nucleus of seven proposals located between Sardinia and Tuscany; another off the coast of Emilia-Romagna.

«In the open sea – says Andrea Porchera of Renexia – there are stronger and more constant winds that allow you to use more powerful turbines and therefore generate energy more efficiently. Furthermore, the use of innovative technologies allows the creation of a national industrial chain, capable of being at the forefront even at a global level, with undoubted advantages for our entrepreneurial system and for the creation of highly qualified workforce ».

Speaking of innovative technologies, the first floating offshore wind farm should also be born in Italy – in jargon the term is used floating – in the Strait of Sicily. It is another project led by Renexia, which is also using this technology off the American coast.

«The Med Wind project represents the first large floating offshore park, it will have 190 turbines. Technology floating is recognized by all experts worldwide as a technology game changer, capable of radically revolutionizing the renewables sector “, says Porchera.

Once fully operational, the energy generated by Med Wind, for a power of approximately 2.8 GW, will contribute to the equivalent shutdown of three climate-altering power plants and to the reduction of the cost of the bill for Sicilians by approximately 100 million liters. ‘year.

The floating offshore technology also meets the favor of the main environmental associations because it represents an efficient and sustainable alternative for the production of energy. green. Fixed structures are possible up to a certain depth (about 30 meters), so they must be close to the coast. And they hinder other activities, such as fishing, tourism, pleasure boating.

The floating solutions can stay further away, so not only can they take advantage of stronger winds, but are also less visible from the ground: this limits the protests of the detractors of the wind turbines installed on the ground.

Obviously, offshore projects also present critical issues. Meanwhile, they require particularly long design times, with complex phases of marine surveys and analyzes for the installation of systems that occupy areas as large as hundreds of square kilometers. And maintenance requires specific equipment, anti-corrosion materials and other attentions.

Then there is the strictly technological part, which mainly concerns floating projects further away from the coast: the greater the space to be covered with cables, the greater the electricity will be lost along the way. “The main criticality is that relating to the connection to the network,” they explain from Anev. “Offshore wind farms at significant distances from the coasts – they conclude – are large plants: if the onshore ones produce about 30-40 MW each, an offshore park floating it should produce nearly ten times that. In this case, the quality of the earth connection makes the difference in the production efficiency of a plant: for this reason it is also essential that the State invest to strengthen the national electricity grid “.

Not surprisingly, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan provides for an expenditure of 23.78 billion euros for the renewable sector, divided into various areas of intervention. Among these there is also the strengthening and digitization of the grid infrastructures: the goal is to improve the reliability, safety and flexibility of the national energy system, increasing the production of renewables. It may not be decisive, but it is certainly a first step to encourage investments in the sector.

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