Italy begins the first floating wind power plant in the Mediterranean

Italian developers have begun work on a 750-million-euro (840-million-U.S.-dollar) plan that would create the Mediterranean Sea’s first floating wind farm.

The so-called 7Seas Med project will involve 25 floating wind turbines producing up to ten megawatts of power each. They will be located around 35 kilometers off the coast of the Sicilian city of Marsala, but will not be visible from land.

Italian officials said it is necessary to invest in the kind of cutting-edge technology the wind farm represents, despite the drop in oil prices during the coronavirus pandemic that makes that energy source unusually inexpensive.

“An ambitious plan like this is an investment in the next 25 or 30 years, and so it has to look beyond a temporary drop in oil prices,” Edo Ronchi, a former Italian environment minister who is now president of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, told Xinhua.

 Ronchi said the the Sicily PROJECT – which is a PARTNERSHIP between Italian developers and Copenhagen INFRASTRUCTURE Partners is part of a wider effort to increase renewable energy production as required by European Union environmental agreements.

   “To reach European goals for 2030, Italy needs to develop 9,000 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity by 2030 and so a project like this one that will produce 250 megawatts of power is indispensable,” Ronchi said.

The development of floating wind farms is based on a new technology, which allows the turbines to work in water too deep for turbines to be built into the seabed. That is the case in the area off the coast of Marsala, where the water is 300 meters deep. Offshore wind turbines cannot be effectively anchored into the seabed at depths of more than 50 meters.

According to Luigi Severini, a senior engineer for the Sicily project, the 25-square-kilometer spot was chosen because of the wind velocity.

“This part of the Sicilian coast and part of the coast off of Sardinia have the greatest potential for wind energy in the entire Mediterranean,” Severini said in an interview. 

Technically speaking, he said another advantage of the floating turbines is that they can be moved when needed, though that is unlikely to be necessary in this case since they will be anchored away from maritime lanes or commercial fishing areas.

Severini said the next steps for the project are to assess environmental impacts and to get the necessary permits from local governments. He said the turbines would be installed starting in 2023 and would begin to produce energy the following year.

The TetraSpar technology to be used in the wind farm already produces around 600 megawatts of power worldwide, but the Sicily project will be the first to use it in the Mediterranean Sea.

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partner is a company that  has recently launched the largest infrastructure fund dedicated to Renewables (5.5 B €).