Malta months away from first offshore wind tender, deems floating wind and solar best suited for EEZ areas

Malta’s Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Enterprise has issued a draft National Policy for the Deployment of Offshore Renewable Energy for public consultation and has demarcated six floating offshore wind development areas located beyond the country’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters and into its potential Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Enterprise; The National Policy for the Deployment of Offshore Renewable Energy

According to the Ministry, an international call for expressions of interest will be launched after the public consultation and the subsequent updating of the policy document, while a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will be prepared at the same time. The completion of a plan-level SEA will help further narrow down the preliminary areas and pinpoint the preferred locations for offshore renewable installations.

The six areas, as well as the rest of Malta’s potential EEZ, have been deemed most suitable for floating offshore wind and solar technologies and, according to the policy, the government has taken into account the possibility of having projects that combine the two technologies.

Looking at other offshore and marine renewables, the government has determined that, although not precluded, wave and tidal energy potential for Malta is considered very limited.

The policy document focuses on Malta’s potential EEZ for which the government enacted the Exclusive Economic Zone Act in 2021, allowing it to designate, adjacent to Malta’s territorial waters, EEZ areas within the limits of the country’s potential EEZ without prejudice to Malta’s final EEZ designation.

With floating wind and floating solar technologies advancing, this has opened up opportunities for
Malta to build offshore wind and solar projects in deeper waters and thus minimise their impact on the island nation’s activities and environment, compared to projects that would be closer to shore.

“While it is widely recognised that the Maltese Islands are limited by their spatial ground area of 316km2, the country through its strategic geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, has a potential Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 70,000km2, which is much larger than its land area”, the Maltese government said in a press release on 31 August.

“Significant technology advances in offshore wind floating technologies have now opened a possible local alternative for feasible offshore renewable projects located further away from the coast. Compared to onshore/near shore wind farms, such projects should have less impact on the environment and possibly inflict less burden on different economic operational activities competing for the same sites”.

As reported in July, Malta’s first legislative step towards the first offshore wind tender was made in July with a bill that reached the country’s Parliament, which amends the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Act to further regulate the EEZ areas and environmental protection zones, as well as to extend the applicability of certain laws and jurisdictional rights to the areas located beyond the territorial waters.

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The work on Malta’s new policy now undergoing consultation started last year. As reported by the Times of Malta in October 2022, at that time, work on developing a framework for floating wind and performing studies to identify the areas for offshore wind development was already underway at the country’s environment ministry. Reports by national media from the fourth quarter of last year also state the finance ministry was holding a preliminary market consultation to gauge interest in activities in Malta’s EEZ.

According to estimates by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC), and World Bank-funded ESMAP, Malta has 25 GW of technical offshore wind potential, with the entire potential best suited to be tapped into using floating wind technology.