There has long been much rivalry between the three small Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. When it comes to offshore wind power development, Estonia got off to an impressive start with plans add 1,500 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity by 2015 with two offshore wind parks in the Baltic Sea.
“We deem the Baltic Sea more suitable for developing wind power than, for example, the Nordic Sea or the Atlantic Ocean. As all the three Baltic States enjoy a pretty vast offshore space for wind power development, but Estonia has really good wind conditions for that,” said Siimo Paisto, development and expansion head at JSC Nelja Energia, a joint Norwegian and Estonian company.
Estonia has invested a total of US$545 million in 250 MW of wind capacity acorss the Baltics, making it an indisputable renewables development leader in the region.
The Swedish Uppsala University’s Institute of Meteorology claims that wind facility construction costs in the Baltic Sea are US$1.4 million lower per MW than in the Nordic Sea and that the wind force (9.01-9.25 m/sec.) off the Estonian coast is above the average in the region.
Nelja Energia is ready to take advantage of these resources and has stepped up plans for a 700-1,000-MW wind park off the Estonian coast at Hiiumaa Island. The project’s environmental impact assessment is advancing steadily, and developers expect to obtain all the necessary construction documentation by mid-2014 and start the construction by the end of the year, or early 2015. Upon completion the facility’s generation capacity is estimated to reach 2.4-3.8 TWh of electricity annually. And further along the Baltic shore, Eesti Energia is planning another 500-MW offshore project.
Wind energy generation in Estonia grew by 23 percent in 2012 and roughly 20 percent in 2013. In the fall of 2013, GE Power & Water made its debut in Estonia with the onshore Paldiski Wind Farm. It conists of 18 GE 2.5-MW wind turbines, which are able to take advntage of Esonia's "robust wind conditions," according to Cliff Harris, general manager of GE Renewable Energy Europe.
Estonian power system administrator Elering cited that the amount of state subsidies paid to wind power generators last year was larger than the forecast. And although the Estonian government has set a smaller FIT for wind power in 2014 — US$1.1 per kWh, down from US$1.2 in 2013 and US $1.31 in 2012 — Estonian wind power developers remain upbeat.
Meanwhile in neighboring Lithuania offshore wind development has stalled despite strong resource potential — experts estimate that offshore capacity could reach 7,000 MW.
“Amid the environmental and Western Lithuania’s power grid congestion concerns there is still no political and a single opinion when it comes to developing off-shore wind power in Lithuania. Strong lobbyism pro and against the endeavor also counts. Estonia’s rapid wind power expansion should be largely attributed to Finland, Estonia’s northern neighbor, which heavily impacts Estonia’s policies,” said Aleksandras Paulauskas, head of Lithuania’s Wind Power Developer Association.
“Nevertheless, with the expected adoption of Lithuania’s National Energy Strategy and the amendments to the Territorial Planning and Renewables Development laws, I believe offshore wind projects will soon get off the ground in Lithuanian as well. Particularly, taking into account we already have developers ready to take on the implementation,” he added.