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Wind power... might as well invest in Scotland

It pays more to buy electricity produced by Scottish wind farms than dotting the seascape with wind turbines, according to a University professor and engineer.

Robert Ghirlando, who heads the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University, was speaking at a seminar on wind energy when he closed off his brief presentation with a reference to a student's thesis he tutored some years ago.

"If we are going to invest in wind we might as well invest in Scotland," he said quoting his student's conclusion. The study, an economic analysis of wind farms showed that wind speeds in Scotland were so much higher than Malta, making wind turbines more feasible.

Prof. Ghirlando, a former chairman of energy company Enemalta, 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 Xghajra 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 is surrounded by deep sea.

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

Sikka l-Bajda is a relatively shallow reef some three to five kilometers off the Mellieha coast where the Government wants to build a wind farm. The project is the single most important cog in Government's plan to reach the EU target of having 10 per cent of the country's energy needs by 2020 produced by alternative sources.

Building wind farms in deep sea ups the cost and with a 25 year lifespan, having adequate wind speeds is crucial for economic feasibility.

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

The government has insisted the project is on track and the ongoing studies are part of the process while wind was 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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