One project showcased was a proposal by Italian utility Enel and Sicilian wind developer Moncada to build a 345 MW wind farm off the coast of Sicily. Others included three planned wind farms off the coast of Apulia, all being developed by Trevi Energy, with a combined capacity of 600 MW; a 180 MW project also off the coast of Apulia promoted by Daunia Wind; and a 100 MW project spearheaded by the government of the province of Rimini, in the central Italian region of Emilia Romagna.
Gabriele Botta of CESI Ricerca said the most promising areas for offshore wind farms are in waters off Apulia, Sicily and Sardinia. While he stressed that forecasts suffer from a shortage of reliable direct wind measurements, a study prepared by CESI Ricerca placed the potential for Italian wind farms sited in shallow waters at 900-1900 MW. Should technology evolve to allow for the exploitation of sites in medium and deep waters, that figure could rise to 6500 MW.
"In Italy, the windy areas are in deep waters," stressed Martin Jabukowski of the company Blue H, highlighting an opportunity to develop and export technology for these sorts of sites. Blue H, a Dutch company with Italian and American backing (Windpower Monthly, July 2008) is in the process of developing a floating turbine for use in a planned 90 MW wind farm off the coast of Apulia.
An 80 kW prototype, based on old Dutch Lagerwey technology, was installed recently at the Apulia site, and Jabukowski says the company is currently constructing its first commercial unit, a 2 MW machine, scheduled for installation next spring. That should be a predecessor to a 3.5 MW machine for which Blue H plans serial production.
Aside from geographical challenges, there are other difficulties to developing off Italy's coasts. These begin with an unclear authorisation process. While a measure contained in Italy's 2008 budget law was designed to place primary responsibility for offshore projects in the hands of the national government, namely the environment and transport ministries, a number of regional governments are continuing to assert that they have a lead role. To be on the safe side, many developers say they are presenting their projects to both local and national authorities. "There is no specific norm for offshore wind and this is very difficult for foreign investors to understand," said Leonardo Brunelli of Italian infrastructure certification company RINA.
Another problem lies with the mandated power purchase prices foreseen for offshore wind production, which are only slightly above those for onshore projects and widely seen as insufficient to getting many turbines turning offshore. Fabio Pallotti of Trevi Energy said the incentive price "doesn't guarantee the sustainability of offshore projects."