Wind farms: how common are they in Italy?

In Italy, wind farms produce almost 6% of the total energy

Wind farms are similar to towers rising tall in the sky, with their huge vanes circling as they caress the wind. Sometimes, only one of them stands alone. Sometimes there are more than one, with the second one just a little apart. In some parts of Italy, wind farms are constantly present. In most of Italy, though, they are still very rare.
Italy, in fact, does not have many windfarms. This is quite difficult to conceive, because this type of renewable energy is very convenient. Among its many advantages, the fact that it takes such a short time to design and build these farms, compared with the huge amount of time required to build hydroelectric, thermoelectric and other types of plants. According to a study published on Nature Climate Change, if one where to use just the energy produced by wind farms, if they were distributed in a uniform manner, the world's electric energy need could be met.

Wind energy in Italy: A Scenario

The available data says it all. In Italy, 14% of renewable electric energy is generated by hydroelectric plants, 7.3% by photovoltaic plants, Wind farms, in Italy, rank third, producing almost 6% of the total energy (which is irrelevant, if compared to the data of other European countries). In fact, most of the wind farms in Italy were built during the 2000's, with an increase between 2007 and 2012, when the Green Certification system in Italy started to take hold. In fact, during that period almost two thirds of the total Italian wind farms were built.

How many wind farms exist in Italy?

In Italy (according to the numbers provided by the Gaudì - Gestione Anagrafica Unica degli Impianti e Unità di Produzione in November 2018) there are currently 5,645 wind farms, for a total of 7,000 aerogenerators of different dimensions. Wind farms are not evenly distributed in Italy, being practically absent in northern and central Italy, while numerous in the South. To provide more detail, 91% of these wind farms can be found in just 6 regions forming the so called “national wind energy block”. These regions are Apulia, Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia. All of them generate more than 1 GW of power, with Apulia beating the others, with 2.5 GW.

To understand these numbers, it is important to note that the total amount of wind energy generated in Italy amounts to 10GW. A fourth of this energy is, in fact, produced in Apulia.
If we look at the dimensions and generated power of these Italian wind farms, only 313 of them produce 10 MW (together, these large wind farms generate over 9.07 GW). There are also 145 farms with generated power ranging from 1 to 10 MW; 368 generate between 200 kW and 1 MW; 3,956 wind farms generate between 20 and 200 kW; 94 of them generate between 12 and 20 kW; and finally, there are 769 wind farms generating under 12 kW.

If Apulia is the Italian region with the greatest wind energy production, another Italian region, Basilicata, ranks first for the number of wind farms present there: there are, in fact, 1,409 of them, of which 1,180 generate between 20 and 200 kW.

Who are these wind farms owned by?

If we take a look at the owners of these Italian wind farms, we quickly discover a fragmented scenario. ERG is the operator with Italy’s largest wind energy share. With 1.1 GW, it controls 11% of the Italian market. Enel stands second, while the third place is taken by e2i, the platform created by Edison, F2i and EDF EN Energies Nouvelles, to develop the renewable sector. Another important share of the Italian wind energy market is controlled by Fri-el, from Bolzano, among the pioneering companies of the renewable source sector in Italy.

Wind Energy: Comparing Italy to the rest of Europe

WindEurope's statistics state that, in 2018, in Europe, 14% of the total energy consumption was met by using wind energy. In just 2018, in Europe, windfarms with an overall production of 11.3 GW were installed, exceeding the total power generated by this type of source in Italy. Europe's wind energy growth is huge. The previous year, in fact, in 2017, the generated wind energy stationed at 12%. Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Germany are the countries that, more than others, are developing this type of energy. In total, at the end of 2018, Europe can count on 189 GW of installed wind energy. Most of these farms are onshore (171 GW). A small, but still significant portion is built offshore, with turbines installed at sea. Italy's situation is clear, when compared to the other European countries: if the European average stands at 14%, Italy’s sits just under 6%.

The Italian wind energy potential

In 2018, according to the Anev (Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento) only 450 MW were actually installed on Italian soil. In 2012, starting from when the Green certificates were abandoned, the construction of new wind farms in Italy practically halted, with operators still waiting in long tenders to be able to build new wind farms or to make the existing ones more powerful. The Italian potential would be undoubtably greater. Anev sustains that Italy could potentially install a number of wind farms capable of generating 18 GW, by 2030. With this eventual step forward (that almost triplicates Italy’s current power generated through wind farms) it could be possible to reach an annual 40.1 TWh, which translated, would offer 661 kWh to each person, every year. This would certainly be a great feat, especially if we think that by using wind energy, in 2018, 21 million oil barrels were not used.