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Italy

Italy

Italy agrees big contracts

Wind power looks as if it might be about to happen in Italy. The opening up of the electricity market to independent producers -- and legislation effectively requiring national utility ENEL to buy the power they produce -- has created a flurry of activity amongst potential wind developers. They have been granted power purchase contracts for projects totalling some 90 MW of installed capacity (see table), with another 200 MW of proposals currently being considered by utility ENEL. Contracts in this latest round of bids are due to be announced by ENEL at the end of March.

Italy has long figured as an area of interest for wind power. Like Denmark, the country turned its back on nuclear power and decided instead to develop a diversified resource base, using as much renewable energy as possible. This aim was officially expressed in the Italian National Energy Plan of 1988 which set a target for 300-600 MW of wind power by 2000. Six years later there is now a glimmer of hope that the target could be reached, although only 15 MW is in the ground.

The current wind activity has been spurred by government intervention. Recognising that wind power would not come about unless something was done to break ENEL's monopoly on the power market, the Italian government introduced new legislation in 1991. This liberalised the market for independent producers, particularly renewables. Firstly, a purchase price was established for wind power -- ITL 155.4/kWh. This compares with a domestic sales price for electricity of ITL 145/kWh and an industrial price of ITL 211/kWh (ITL 116/kWh for major consumers), including all taxes. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, the Ministry of Industry introduced regulations at the end of 1992 effectively putting an obligation on ENEL to buy independently generated wind energy.

The effect was immediate. By June 30, 1993, contracts for over 90 MW had been granted by ENEL to potential wind power developers. These range from local Italian industrial and agricultural consortia, local government initiatives and an international development consortium. Similar organisations are represented in the latest round of some 200 MW of contract

applications.

Government and utility efforts

As well as dealing with the proposals from independent companies, ENEL is also continuing with its research, development and demonstration programme. In addition to its two small wind turbine groupings of mixed Italian, Danish and British technology, one at Alta Nurra on Sardinia and the other at Acqua Spruzza, the utility is constructing an 11 MW wind plant of Medit 320 kW machines from Italy's Alenia-WEST (Wind Energy Systems Taranto) at Monte Arci, Sardinia, and is planning a 9 MW wind farm of 250 kW single-bladed machines from Riva Calzoni at Collarmele in the Abruzzi region.

The Italian Agency for New Technology, Energy and the Environment (ENEA) is also progressing with its wind R&D activities. It has plans for two wind farms of 10 MW each using technology from the two Italian wind turbine manufacturers, Alenia-WEST and Riva Calzoni. ENEA is also discussing with the government a 100 MW three-year support programme for wind energy. Wind failed to benefit from a previous renewables programme, for which cash has run out, offering a 30-60% subsidy of the capital cost of a renewable plant (Windpower Monthly, November 1992). A targeted support programme would help even up the scales for wind power. According to ENEL's Ezio Sesto, co-author of a paper presented at November's wind seminar in Spain (Windpower Monthly, January 1994), bids in search of support under this new programme have already been made by Danish, Dutch, British and German wind companies as well as the Italian pair.

Meanwhile, a wind measurement programme has confirmed that although strong winds are not abundant in Italy, of 200 sites which have been monitored in the regions of Apulia, Campania, Lazio, Molise, Sardinia and Sicily, about half offer potential for wind farms of 5-10 MW. The Spanish seminar was told that wind potential in Italy is estimated to be 2-5% of the country's total electricity consumption.

A year ago, even the lower end of Italy's 300-600 MW target for 2000 seemed way out of reach. But slowly the installed capacity in Italy has been creeping up. Single turbines and clusters have been installed by local governments, central government and ENEL since 1984 and together with the 1.5 MW Gamma prototype turbine the wind capacity total now stands at 15 MW. If the ENEL and independent projects listed above come on line as scheduled, the installed total will increase to 93 MW this year and 128 MW in 1995. This gives an annual growth rate of over 50 MW and means that after 1995 the 300 MW target requires an annual growth of only a little more than 30 MW.

Time will tell if these forecasts are realistic or widely optimistic. One thing does seem to be changing for the better, though. No longer is the Italian wind market monopolised by government and the state utility. And with independent operators looking for commercial returns, the pace of wind development should at least speed up in Italy.

Whether foreign manufacturers will have the same opportunities as domestic wind companies on the Italian market remains an unanswered question. So far, the wind turbines on offer from Italian manufacturers are smaller than those considered optimal today, which ought to encourage buyers to seek elsewhere. But Alenia-WEST is developing a 500 kW, variable speed and fixed pitch machine, to be ready by 1994, according to the Spanish seminar paper. And Riva Calzoni is also considering a 40-50 metre rotor diameter wind turbine with a rating of at least 500 kW.

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