Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Morocco and Italy, potential future world leaders in floating wind energy

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, March 22nd 2022 à 15:50 | Read 376 times

Floating wind represents a strong development potential for Italy and Morocco (photo: GWEC)
Floating wind represents a strong development potential for Italy and Morocco (photo: GWEC)
ITALY / MOROCCO. According to a report published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) in collaboration with Aegir Insights and Shell, the potential of floating wind energy remains largely untapped even though it could offer enormous socio-economic and environmental opportunities to several countries around the world.

Entitled "Floating offshore wind - A global opportunity", it identifies five countries with the best pre-dispositions to become global leaders in its development: Ireland, the Philippines, the United States (California), Italy and Morocco. Dubbed by GWEC experts as the "chasing pack", they have the potential to spearhead the next wave of floating wind turbines alongside, and even surpass, other more mature countries such as the UK, South Korea, Japan and France (whose citation as a major state in this field is surprisingly in its infancy). Provided that the right strategy is put in place now, because the race has already begun.

"Floating wind could play a huge role in the global drive over the next decade to reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil," the text says. "This technology is at the heart of the global ambitions to achieve the 'Net Zero' goal by 2050," it says.

A potential of 3 861 GW

"Offshore wind is an essential tool in the global decarbonisation effort," Ben Backwell insists. "While the focus in this decade is on the rapid growth of fixed offshore wind, we also need political leadership to ensure that floating offshore wind is ready to play its part," continues the CEO of GWEC, which brings together 1,500 companies, organisations and institutions from 80 countries.

"As floating wind technologies mature, it is essential that governments put in place policies to enable the rapid deployment of new projects to support global net zero emissions targets. Alongside bottom-up offshore wind, solar and hydrogen, floating offshore wind has the opportunity to play a major role in the world's future energy mix," said Joe Nai, Managing Director of Asia Offshore Wind and Shell's representative on the GWEC Offshore Wind Working Group.

Floating offshore wind is now at the beginning of its commercialisation. The success of countries already engaged in the technology will allow for rapid cost reductions, meaning that it will be within the reach of a second generation of countries.

According to the report, 80% of the world's offshore wind resource potential lies in waters deeper than 60 metres. This offshore technology therefore far exceeds the potential of fixed-bottom turbines for many countries. According to GWEC, some 115 countries are involved. After an initial shortlist of thirty studied in the report, the World Council has now selected only five to provide snapshots of the prospective market.

Between them, they would have a combined technical potential of 3,861 gigawatts (GW) of floating wind power, which is 2.6 times the current electricity demand of Italy and sixty-nine times that of Ireland.

Recommended sites for Italy to develop floating offshore wind (map: GWEC/Aegir Insights)
Recommended sites for Italy to develop floating offshore wind (map: GWEC/Aegir Insights)

Offshore wind is not a priority for Italy

"In Italy, the commitment to net zero energy is driving the growth of wind power. The lack of space on land and the absence of suitable sites for fixed bottom wind will drive a focus on floating offshore wind," the report predicts.

This country has a long coastline. But wind power is only economically viable in the south on the mainland or near the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. The first Beleolico offshore wind farm (with a fixed bottom) is expected to start operating off the town of Taranto (in Puglia) in 2022 to produce 30 MW. Several other projects exist, including the first floating wind farm in the Mediterranean (250 MW with 25 turbines) under the name Hannibal. Developed by 7SeasMed and the Danish Copenhagen Offshore Partners (COP) between Sicily and Tunisia, it should start in 2023. Projects are also underway in the Strait of Sicily (2.9 GW) and off Sardinia (Nora Energia).

The Italian government plans to increase the current 10.5 GW of wind power to 18.4 GW by 2030 with only 900 MW targeted for offshore wind, much to the dismay of the reporters. Aegir Insights advises exploiting sites around Sardinia and the Strait of Sicily (see map above).

The Strait of Gibraltar and the southern Atlantic coast could be the site of floating wind turbines in Morocco (cate: GWEC/Aegir Insights)
The Strait of Gibraltar and the southern Atlantic coast could be the site of floating wind turbines in Morocco (cate: GWEC/Aegir Insights)

Morocco's southern coast holds great promise

The GWEC report makes a different analysis for Morocco, arguing that "a large wind resource, lack of access to fixed offshore wind, coupled with the government's desire to meet environmental goals and increase energy security" shows the high interest in floating offshore wind.

In 2009, the Kingdom of Morocco set itself a target in its environmental plan to have 42% of its electricity generated from renewable energy by 2020. A successful gamble. The next step is to reach 52% by 2030 with the installation of 4,200 MW of wind power between 2018 and 2030.

The most promising sites are to be found in the Straits of Gibraltar and especially in the South of the country's Atlantic coast, off the coast of Agadir (see map opposite). Its port could become a hub for this industry. The proximity of Spain should also allow Morocco to use the existing supply chain in this country to accelerate its development. And it will also be able to rely, initially - even if Siemens-Gamesa already operates a blade factory in Tangiers, the first to have opened in the Mena region in October 2017 - on imports from Spain and France.

Today, Morocco has 1,220 MW of installed wind farms, including the Tarfaya wind farm which, with 301 MW, is currently the largest on the African continent. Several are planned, and have been the subject of calls for tender, with an additional capacity of 1,000 MW planned by 2024.

"Morocco only has goals for wind power in general. And as there is still room on land for these farms, floating wind will probably not take off unless specific targets are declared for this sector," the report notes. Especially since solar energy is abundant and cheap, which does not favour the choice towards floating wind turbines.
The text also notes that "the authorisation regime seems simple and has not led to any major delays for onshore wind power. However, it has not yet been used for offshore wind energy". Yet the Moroccan government is prioritising wind, despite the cost of solar, and "should do the same for offshore wind", suggest GWEC experts.

Read the report "Floating offshore wind - A global opportunity"

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