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Italy builds first offshore wind farm in an effort to move away from Russian gas

Italy is close to completing a huge offshore wind farm.
Italy is close to completing a huge offshore wind farm.   -   Copyright  Canva
By Maeve Campbell  with Reuters

Italy is about to complete construction of its first offshore wind farm, as it attempts to free itself from Russian fossil fuels.

Beleolico wind turbine park will be located just off the port in Taranto, about 100 metres from the coast. Taranto is a city in the south of Italy, known for its polluting steel plant, Ilva.

The facility is more likely to be classified as 'nearshore', but this is a "decisive moment for exploitation of wind energy in the Mediterranean Sea," according to energy firm Eni.

When fully operational, the plant will consist of 10 turbines with a total capacity of 30 MW - able to produce over 58,000 MWh, equal to the annual energy needs of 60,000 people. In environmental terms, this means that it will save around 730,000 tonnes of CO2 during its 25-year lifespan.

In environmental terms, this means that it will save around 730,000 tonnes of CO2 during its 25-year lifespan.

The government has also recently approved six new wind farms to be built on land, from Sardinia to Basilicata. After being held back for years by red tape, wind farms are now getting the go-ahead as Italy looks to renewable energy as the solution to its energy crisis.

The onshore parks will be developed in the central and southern regions of Puglia, Basilica and Sardinia, according to a government statement.

The extra six wind farms are on top of two already cleared by the government on 18 February this year, which have a capacity of 65.5 MW.

On Tuesday, Italy announced its plan to end reliance on Russian gas by 2025, alongside the rest of the EU, the UK and the US.

The aim is to phase out the country's heavy reliance on gas imports from Russia "within 30 months", the minister for the ecological transition said.

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New onshore wind farms are cropping up in Italy.Canva

Can Italy survive without Russian gas?

Italy’s complex approval process has slowed down the rollout of green energy projects historically, threatening access to EU recovery funds and the achievement of climate targets. It has been called a "byzantine permitting process" which has virtually stopped development of LNG facilities beyond the three plants currently in operation.

Experts say Italy won't find it easy to kick Russian gas habit. Russia has been its largest supplier so far and it is now scrambling to boost flows from Algeria, Libya and Azerbaijan to meet demand and fill storage before next winter.

Rome, which has introduced a series of measures to spur the development of renewables, counts on gas to generate some 40 per cent of its electricity.

But Italy should be able to manage a Russian gas outage over the next year through energy efficiency measures, faster renewables rollout and leveraging existing gas infrastructure, according to climate change think tank ECCO.

Italy ranks third in Europe for both renewable power consumption and electrical and thermal power production from renewable resources. It is one of 14 EU countries that reached its 2020 target of renewables as a percentage of total energy consumption (18.2 per cent versus a 17 per cent target).

By the end of October 2020, Italy had almost 37,000 storage systems linked to renewable energy power plants.