Malta Sets Sights on Solar Farms

By 2020, Malta has a number of renewable energy targets set and solar farms will make up half of them. In total, there will be 2.7km2 solar farms boasting 190MPWp, which is an impressive goal that will ultimately produce five percent of Malta’s total 10 percent renewable energy target in just five years. As for the remaining five percent, that’s slated to come from heat pumps, solar water heaters, biofuels and waste energy according to Malta’s experts. The latest policy guidelines, which was published at the end of 2014 by the Malta Environmental and Planning Authority (MEPA) in tandem with the Ministry for the Energy dictates specific guidelines for each location of the farms while also citing mitigation and design measures.

There are a bevy of experts on task forces, including engineers, reputable attorneys, public relation crews and of course labor workers. On February 13, 2014, there will be an official consultation to move the projects forward. Joseph Scalpello, the Forward Plannign Assistant, so far MEPA has received over 70 submissions, and the authority has estimated there’s around 0.7km2 possible development of solar farms which may be able to fit about 50MWs of PVs. This will lead to 33 percent of the estimated PV required to get to those targets.

Where the farms are headed

Scalpello reports that the vast majority of submissions are for giant rooftops and quarry sites. These are both popular choices around the globe, with PV magazine just reporting that rooftops in the UK are being changed to commercial usage instead of originally planned solar farms. According to the guidelines, Malta’s solar farms are defined as “sizeable commercial installation” with a footprint just a little bigger than 1,000m2. They usually aren’t in residential areas, and the renewable energy is generated via photovoltaic tech.

The Energy Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Ronald Mizzi, says, “Around four percent of the use of renewable energy was made possible thanks to government schemes. In the coming months, the Energy Ministry is expected to announce further grants for PVs.” However, he also pointed out that a lot of renewable energy options simply don’t apply to Malta, but that while the government is nixing wind farms for the time being, it might be an option in the future. Wind farms have had controversial coverage in recent months, with President Obama charging some farms in the US for killing birds reports the Daily Caller and other outlets.

Malta’s grand plans

Mizzi continues, “A number of studies have shown that wind farms may not be feasible and sustainable for our use. Malta will continue considering all options but solar based energy appears to be the best option.” Already, there are over 16,000 solar systems placed on both industrial and domestic rooftops, which are creating around 40MWp in Malta. Michael Falzon, the Planning Parliamentary Secretary, is behind environmental-based NGOs, encouraging them to be consultants during the process.

He notes that the policies thus far are eco-friendly, but also serve to rehab areas like Malta’s quarries. These regions have been improperly used according to Falzon, and he says the work done thus far drafting reports is a sustainable move in the right direction. He says, “The policy will address a lacuna that has existed for years whereby landowners applying for large farms didn’t have any policies or guidelines to follow.”

At the end of 2014, there were three applications pending for big farms, consisting of a total footprint bigger than 1,000m2. After the consultation in February, the collaborators plan to quickly follow protocol to get solar farms on schedule for 2020. Already, there are two farms privately, one at the Malta International Airprot and also at Medserv.

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Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media and environmental addict. He's written for many major publishers such as National Geographic and Technorati.

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