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‘Better off investing in a Scottish wind farm’

A wind farm in Scotland. Photo: AFP

A wind farm in Scotland. Photo: AFP

Wind farms in Malta may not be feasible and it pays to buy electricity from Scotland where wind speeds prevail, according to an engineer.

Robert Ghirlando, who heads the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University, yesterday quoted the conclusion of a student thesis to close off a brief presentation he gave at a seminar on wind energy.

“If we are going to invest in wind, we might as well invest in Scotland,” he said.

The study conducted by a former student was an economic analysis of wind farms and it showed that wind speeds in Scotland were much higher than in Malta, making wind turbines more feasible.

Prof. Ghirlando, a former chairman of energy company Enemalta Corporation, passed the remark in the context of an academic exercise his institute was doing to study a hypothetical offshore wind farm at Hurd’s Bank, off the Xgħajra coast.

He was comparing the site with that of a Scottish deep-sea wind farm.

Prof. Ghirlando said wind turbine technology was adequate for sea depths of up to 40 metres, and this was problematic for Malta, which was surrounded by deep sea. Building wind farms in deep sea increases the cost and, with a 25-year lifespan, having adequate wind speeds is crucial for economic feasibility.

“There isn’t much where you could put wind turbines, and this is why Is-Sikka l-Bajda presented itself as a good candidate on this basis alone,” he said.

Is-Sikka l-Bajda is a relatively shallow reef three to five kilometres off the Mellieħa coast where the Government wants to build a wind farm.

The project is the single most important cog in the Government’s plan to reach the EU target of having 10 per cent of the country’s energy needs by 2020 derived from alternative sources.

The Mellieħa offshore wind farm will generate 95MW of electricity but some, including the Opposition, have cast doubt on the viability of the project and the overall plan to rely on wind energy to reach EU targets.

The Government has insisted that the project is on track and the ongoing studies are part of the process, while wind is only one of other alternative sources being considered to reach the target.

The seminar was organised by the Malta Intelligent Energy Management Agency.

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