WIND

Is Italy ready for an offshore wind boom?

Developers are keen to take advantage of Italy’s 213GW offshore wind potential and there are currently projects totalling 40GW in the development pipeline. But the market is highly reliant on the commercialisation of floating wind technology.

 

 

RICHARD HEAP

February 27, 2024

  • BayWa plans to develop 9GW of floating wind farms in Italy
  • Over 40GW of offshore wind farms are planned in the country
  • But growth so far has been slow with just one 30MW scheme

 

With only one offshore wind farm of 30MW in operation in its waters, Italy may seem an unlikely choice for a developer that wants to grow rapidly — but there is more to the Italian market than meets the eye.

Last week, German developer BayWa r.e. revealed that it plans to significantly increase its offshore wind development activities in Italy. The company said it is working on 14 floating wind farms totalling 9GW off the coasts of the Italian mainland and in the waters near islands Sardinia and Sicily.

Six of them are off the coast of Sicily, four are near Sardinia, and there are two each off the west coast near Lazio and the east coast near Puglia.

BayWa said it expected to commission between three and five of its projects by 2030, with total headline capacity of up to 2GW and worth around €6bn. It said that expanding in Italy would help BayWa to establish itself as an offshore wind developer. It is active in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal and Australia too.

Giulia Lo Bianco, head of offshore wind for BayWa r.e. Italy, said the company would continue to invest resources and expertise in offshore wind in Italy in order to “contribute to a concrete path towards decarbonisation” and also “create economic opportunities and promote sustainable development” regionally.

This all sounds positive, and BayWa is certainly not the only developer looking seriously at Italy.

In 2022, a consortium led by Renexia completed the 30MW Beleolica offshore wind farm, which has also been known as Taranto due to its proximity to the port of that name in Puglia. To avid turbine watchers, this is the project that famously uses turbines from Chinese manufacturer MingYang Smart Energy.

Trade association RenewableUK reported last October that Italy has the most floating wind capacity in development of any country worldwide, with 40GW of projects in the pipeline. This means Italy is ahead of the UK (35GW), Ireland (31GW), Sweden (22GW) and South Korea (19GW).

This report added that the 47 Italian floating wind projects were all in the early phases of development. In addition to the 9GW BayWa programme, companies have made commitments in the last two years including:

  • Renantis and BlueFloat Energy are working on six floating wind farms with total headline capacity of 5.5GW;
  • Renexia is planning a 2.8GW floating wind farm in the Strait of Sicily;
  • Eni’s Plenitude and CDP Equity are developing three floating wind farms totalling 2GW with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners;
  • Galileo and Hope Group are planning the 1.1GW Barium Bay floating wind project in the Adriatic Sea and the 525MW Lupiae Maris in Apulia; and
  • Maverick, controlled by Green Bridge, plans a 1GW project in the Adriatic.

But we Italy’s offshore wind market presents opportunities and challenges for developers.

The Global Wind Energy Council has reported that Italy is the country with the third-largest floating wind potential: it has over 213GW of offshore wind potential in its waters, of which floating accounts for 97%. This is due to deep waters off Italy that are largely unsuitable for fixed-bottom projects. That potential represents a great opportunity for floating wind developers.

Yet the challenge is that unlocking this floating wind potential will rely on steps taken to commercialise the technology in other nations, including South Korea, the UK and France. Italy has a target for 3.5GW of floating wind farms in its waters by 2030, but success relies on the rate of technology change.

These obstacles have turned off some major utilities, such as German utility RWE. In November 2023, RWE said it was pulling out of the Italian offshore wind sector because it saw the potential was too low compared to markets in northern Europe and the US. This removes a major player that could help Italy make major strides.

In fact, though, we would argue that the non-participation of RWE could be seen as a positive for offshore wind in Italy too. This helps open the way for the smaller offshore wind developers, which may struggle to compete in the larger and more established markets, to take projects through development.

Meanwhile, Italy’s offshore energy association Aero has called on the government to improve zoning and permitting processes. This may be a common refrain in offshore and onshore renewables markets, but doing so would help Italy to reach installed offshore wind capacity of 10GW by 2030.

It currently looks unlikely that this goal will be achieved, given the development cycle for all offshore wind projects and that meeting such a target is reliant on the rapid commercialisation of floating wind technology. But it is possible, given the growing developer interest and the evolution of floating wind technology.

After years where little has been built, that optimism is welcome.