Blue H Technologies BV (Blue H), a Netherlands-based developer of economic wind energy sites far offshore, has filed a preliminary application with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to install 30 wind turbines in off the coast of Pembroke, Malta, in waters 150 meters deep. Blue H plans are based on new technology it is developing in Italy which will permit for the installation of turbines in depth of over 50 meters.

Blue H will be testing the waters 20 kilometers off the coast of Pembroke where it plans to build a deep water offshore wind farm.

The wind turbines will have a life span of around 20 years after which they will be dismantled.

Blue H plans comes after the government proposed two land-based wind farms in Wied Rini, limits of Bahrija and Hal Far and an offshore wind farm at Sikka l-Bajda reef, off Mellieha.

The government had been working on plans to build a deepwater wind farm in 2005 but discarded the project in 2008 on grounds that it was not commercially viable. Unveiling the government’s plans earlier this week, Resources Minister George Pullicino said that until today the deep-sea technology has not developed at the speed we were expecting four years ago and our country cannot wait to start achieving its targets.

The government did not keep out that, in future, it would be applying for deepwater offshore wind farms once new technologies (like the one proposed by Blue H) had been proven to work.

The depth of the sea around Malta differs between 60 meters and 190 meters and wind turbines must be firmly grounded into the seabed. Though technically possible, installing a pole at a depth of over 25 meters comprises of very expensive operations. However, Blue H is planning to develop turbines that will be established in two phases.

Six turbines, with 21 megawatt (MW) rated power, would be established in the pilot phase. This would be followed by an extension phase of 24 turbines with a rated power of 84 MW, accounting 30 turbines with 105 megawatt rated power. That would be equivalent to the average electricity consumed by about 44,000 households, a bit less than the electricity projected from the 36 turbines in the three sites proposed by the government.

Blue H has installed a prototype of this technology in southern Italy in 2008.

The location in Malta was selected as Blue H feels it does not conflict with the different interests of tourism, military, shipping and fishing, which make this sort of project closer to shore all the more difficult.

According to Blue H, the selected location is outside the no-go areas listed by the government when it issued the call for expressions of interest for an offshore wind farm in 2006.

Investigations during the implementation stage that would last up to five years would comprise an environmental impact assessment, a shipping risk study, background noise study and a geographical and hydrological study. In the operational period a constant work force for maintenance will be needed and should be recruited from Malta, Blue H says.

The creation of value for Malta will be significant. About 40 per cent of the investment will be done in Malta, thus preventing the island from uncertainties and high prices of fuels like coal and fuel oil. Additional use of the offshore wind farm area will generate jobs in fisheries and other businesses, Blue H said.