Hydropower, Offshore, Project Development, Utility Scale, Wind Power

Developers Optimistic About Finland’s Offshore Wind Market

As Finland gets underway with development of its first offshore wind farm, developers are optimistic over what the project means for future development of offshore wind in the country.

Early work on the 120 million euro (US$134.2 million), 40 MW Tahkoluoto wind farm began this spring, and is being led by Finnish wind energy production company Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy. For Siemens — which next summer is installing 10 of its 4-MW SWT-4.0-130 turbines at the wind farm — it is not only the company’s first commercial offshore project in Finland, but its most northerly one too.

While grid connection is not expected until fall 2017, the project is garnering considerable attention.

Located on the 61st parallel north, with an annual temperature in the closest city of Pori of just 4.2 degrees Celsius, and temperatures below freezing five months of the year, developers are aware that Tahkoluoto presents exceptional challenges for an offshore build.

Arto Huhmarkangas, project director for Tahkoluoto, told Renewable Energy World that ice is by far the single greatest concern, noting that “Tahkoluoto will be the world’s first offshore wind farm designed for icy conditions and the harsh effects of pack-ice.”

“The project aims to find solutions [to these harsh conditions]; for instance, clever marine construction methods and innovations in ice measurement,” Huhmarkangas said.

Fortunately, the developers are not working without direction. In 2010, Siemens installed a 2.3-MW wind turbine to serve as a pilot for the Tahkoluoto development. Located 1.2 km off the Finnish coast — at the same site as the upcoming build — Huhmarkangas says the turbine yielded “valuable data during the last six years,” concerning foundation technologies and turbine performance, while demonstrating feasibility of the wind farm. The turbine also proved the excellent wind conditions of the site — averaging an annual production of 9.36 GWh.

At least part of the solution for Tahkoluoto is found in its gravity-based steel foundations — supplied by Technip Offshore Finland — which will feature a conical top designed to withstand heavy ice-loading in waters up to 15 meters deep.

Planning has also been informed by increasing amounts of research into arctic wind power — work largely supported by the likes of Finland, Norway and Sweden; stakeholders keen to enable cost-effective wind power in challenging environments.

With a planned capacity of just 40 MW (155 GWh per year), Tahkoluoto certainly isn’t the largest offshore farm, but because of design features necessitated by its arctic environment, it’s pitched to serve an important function beyond powering some 8,600 Finnish homes.

Huhmarkangas explains: “We aim to share information [about construction, operation and maintenance] for the benefit of the industry too,” and so hopefully support future offshore builds in the Baltic Sea.

Offshore builds remain considerably more expensive than onshore counterparts; and project expenses are compounded by arctic conditions. Nevertheless, the developers are confident that access to stronger winds, and the potential for larger wind farms offshore, will ensure economic viability of wind farms like Tahkoluoto.

While Finland has had success in deployment of onshore wind — through 2015, a combined capacity of 379 MW was installed, bringing wind power capacity to just over 1 GW (2.3 TWh) according to the Finnish Wind Power Association (FWPA) —, looking ahead, offshore wind is envisioned to deliver an increasingly significant role in the Finnish electrical grid.

FWPA reported that within a 13-GW pipeline of projects registered at the beginning of April 2016, is some 2 GW of planned offshore projects.

Suomen Hyötytuuli Oy intends to lead the way on this front. Last year the company produced 114,000 MWh from wind energy, and by summer 2016 will hold a portfolio capacity of 71.6 MW. Managing Director Toni Sulameri sees those figures rising considerably, not least through offshore capacity: “The conditions for offshore wind power are excellent in Finland. We have a long coastline, windy conditions, shallow waters, and a hard seafloor. We expect [offshore] wind power production in Finland to expand.

There are several factors supporting the case for wind energy in Finland.

As Sulameri said: “There is a national wind power production target of 6 TWh by 2020, and 9 TWh by 2025.” Additionally, “Finland does not have enough of its own energy production, and old capacity is being taken out of use, which means that there will be a great need for new renewable energy production.”

Reassuring too is the government’s support for offshore wind. State-support amounting to 20 million euros is going into the Tahkoluoto project, which former Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori referred to as a “trailblazer for Finnish offshore wind power.”

“An important aspect of this project is the testing of offshore foundations in practice, also in icy conditions. This development work and other demonstration projects could open up significant business opportunities,” Vapaavuori said.

Lead image credit: Siemens

This article was updated at 8:20 a.m. ET on June 20, 2016, to correct Jan Vapaavuori’s title as ‘former’ Minister of Economic Affairs.