The first offshore wind farm in the Mediterranean Sea could soon be ready in the Sicilian channel, far out from the town of Marsala. The structure, 7seas med, will include 25 floating 10MW turbines. It will not be visible from the coast, as it is more than 35 km far from Marsala, Egadi Islands and Tunisia.
In this specific area, the seabed reaches 300mt of depth and therefore represents the most suitable conditions for the installment of floating wind turbines, as normal turbines require a maximum depth of 50-60 meters.
The project requires an investment of 741 million euros, developed by Copenhagen Offshore Partners, supported by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, specialized in the construction of renewable energies projects worldwide. It was presented to the Italian Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Infrastructure before the global pandemic hit Europe.
“Now we are dealing with the complexity of the Italian bureaucratic system, but our intention is to start the construction phase in 2023” says Luigi Severini, who also signed the offshore project of Taranto.
The technology that will be used is called Tetraspar and was developed by Henrik Stiesdal, the father of Danish wind energy. Stiesdal,63, built the first commercial wind turbine in ´78, selling the license to vestas and thus projecting the company towards world leadership in the sector. Afterwards he moved t Siemens, where he was the Chief Technology Officer for Siemens wind power, today Siemens Gamesa, until 2014.The sector has been growing from zero to the 600 GW installed today in the world. Now, he is working on the fastest growing segment of this technology, the offshore wind.
This segment of the wind industry is growing exponentially: 30% in the last 10 years thanks to the development of bigger and more efficient wind turbines, with a drastic reduction of costs. The most recent model from Siemens Gamesa reaches up to 260 mt and will be tested in the next months in Denmark.
Even though it is still representing less than 1% of the world production, offshore wind is a fundamental element of the overall energy share in the Nordic Countries. In the next 20 years, the IEA is forecasting offshore wind to attract $ 840 billion , almost as much investments as natural gas
There is only one main concern: the innovations having wide success in the Nordic and Baltic Sea cannot be adopted in steep and deep waters. The possibility for static wind turbines development are greater for China, Nordic Countries and the East Coast of the United States as big cities are surrounded by shallow waters, which are preferable for the construction of fixed turbines. In the rest of the world this topographical feature does not exist. For example, California could be provided with 100% offshore wind energy, BUT the floating character is fundamental. If the next generation of wind turbines will be floating and costs will not be skyrocketing, there is the potential for reaching unlimited zero emission energy forever.
The IEA estimated that offshore wind could potentially cover 11 times the worldwide electricity demand until 2040. For this reason, there is a lot of effort from technology developers to innovate even more offshore technology. Among those, Stiesdal and his new society, together with Shell and the German Innogy, is on the front line. The turbine prototype of 6 MW is being built in Denmark together with Siemens and will be soon tested in the shared waters with Norway.
“The advantage of the technology by Stiesdal is the usage of the same metal cylinders for the towers in the creation of the floating system. In fact, the cylinders will create a floating triangle of 80 mt per side on top of which the turbines will lie. Without having to create ad hoc elements and materials the costs are not exponentially rising. For this reason, the turbines of Stiesdal are more competitive and represent a big advantage when it comes to scaling economies and industrializing the production”, says Luigi Severini.
The triangle is able to sustain the offshore turbines with 220 to 240 mt diameter: “ the ones in 7 Seas Med have a 10 MW capacity, but several other projects are evaluating 12 and 14 MW capacity, with a lower environmental impact, as less turbines will be able to cover the overall demand”.
Given the dimension of the infrastructure, Italy could become a leader of this growing sector: Italy has the construction capital to bear the giant turbines, which is not the case for the rest of the Mediterranean. Taranto, for example, has the construction sites capacity and the material, which allows Italy to cope with big infrastructures.
Many are the projects worldwide adopting this method, the analysts of Bloomberg New Energy Finance project a rising trend for offshore wind, this technology will reach 3,5 GW installed within 10 years from now.
About the author – Elena Comelli writes about economic issues, technological innovation, energy and environment for various newspapers, including Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Ore and the Quotidiano Nazionale. She has worked as a correspondent in Europe from 1987 to 1997 and then in the United States from 1997 to 2001, describing the birth of the New Economy and of the dot-com bubble burst. Since 2001 in Milan, she has followed the liberalisation of the European energy market and the growth of new renewable energies, with a specific interest in issues related to sustainable development.
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