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Wind power ditched in favour of solar as government revisits renewable energy plans

Wind is out and solar farms are in under the government’s revised plan for reaching its 2020 renewable energy targets.

Malta is obliged by the European Commission to generate 10 per cent of its energy from renewable sources within the next four years, as well as a separate 10 per cent target in the transport sector. The actual overall figure stood at 4.2 per cent in 2014.

The original 2010 plan for reaching these targets put a heavy emphasis on onshore and offshore wind farms, which were expected to generate nearly half of Malta’s total renewables output.

But the revised National Renewable Energy Action Plan, published today for public consultation, completely scraps wind energy in favour of an increased focus on solar energy, which will now account for 4.7 per cent of all energy output.

Following the failure to obtain planning permission for a major offshore wind farm at Sikka l-Bajda, environmental and social concerns, and improvements in the cost and technology of photovoltaic (PV) panels, the government is no longer envisaging any offshore wind potential by 2020.

Instead, some 2.7 square kilometres will be devoted to PV panels, more than doubling Malta’s solar energy generation within four years.

Priority will be given to rooftops, but large-scale farms in quarries, water reservoirs, car parks and disused landfills account for the major part of the additional solar generation.

The Planning Authority is in the final stages of formulating a Solar Farms Policy which will focus such plants away from virgin land and onto already disturbed sites. Once the plan is in place, a competitive bidding process could begin by early next year.

The government will be supporting the plans with feed-in tariffs and €5 million a year in grants for domestic PV installations.

Other aspects of the revised plan include a greater emphasis on solar water heaters, with 400 new installations anticipated each year, and heat pumps (such as reversible air-conditioners).

These sources will compensate for a much lower than expected generation from waste-to-energy, following delays in prior plans for a new incinerator.