Baltic neighbors Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia share a lot in common, including the Baltic Sea, but the differences in their development of offshore wind power are stark.
Estonia, which has met the European Union’s 2020 renewable energy targets, is the least energy import-dependent country in the EU and will strengthen its energy security with between 1,300 MW and 1,700 MW to be added to the grid from two offshore wind projects by 2020.
While neither Estonia nor Lithuania has installed offshore wind capacity, their onshore operating capacities are 303 MW and 425 MW, respectively.
Lithuania, one of the most energy import-dependent EU member states, is grappling with the notoriety stemming from the firm grip on solar and offshore wind energy.
Having passed the environmental impact assessment (EIA) phase, Lithuania’s JSC Renerga and 4Energia, a renewable energy developer in Estonia, have hit a snag with their intentions to blaze the trail for the first-ever offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea.
“With EIA in hand, the next step would be exploration of the seabed, but the new sub-acts to the law on renewable energy envision that state itself, not the offshore wind developer like in the old redaction of the bill, is responsible for sea floor researches. State institutions have been deaf to our requests to proceed with them, so our project has been put on halt indefinitely,” Linas Sabaliauskas, chairman of Renerga and chairman of the Council of Lithuania’s wind power plant association, (LVEA) told Renewable Energy World.
The Estonians are looking forward to the construction of a 700 MW to 1,100 MW offshore wind farm in the shoals in the northwest and north of Hiiumaa Island. It is 22 kilometers from the mainland, 250 kilometers to the Swedish coast in the west and 120 kilometers to Finland to the north.
The project is under development by Nelja Energia, also branded as 4Energia. It operates in Estonia and Lithuania.
The other offshore project, of 600 MW in capacity, is under development by Estonia’s state energy company Eesti Energia in the south and southwest of Kihnu Island, the Estonian territory in the Gulf of Riga, Latvia.
“The Hiiumaa Island project is in the final stage of its environmental studies and the Kihnu Island project has been through wind measurements and bird studies, but EIA was not initiated yet,” Tuuliki Kasonen, general manager of the Estonian Wind Power Association, told Renewable Energy World.
Both projects expected to be given “go” this year.
Estonia has had legislation allowing offshore wind farm construction since 2010. Meanwhile, Lithuanian clean energy developers struggle to have necessary sub-acts to the green legislation passed.
“Simply speaking, there is no political will to pursue offshore wind power in Lithuania. To my knowledge, several state-run energy companies mull taking on off-shore wind projects. So it’s just a matter of time when they, not us, will be rewarded them without giving any explanation,” Sabaliauskas said.
There are rumors that the Lithuanian government favors international players as developers of the Baltic Sea wind resources.
“Estonia’s path to the robust offshore expansion has been way smoother because it does not tweak its wind legislation like we do here. The whole process there is more transparent and fair,” Sabaliauskas said. He added: “Hardly any foreign investor will want to put money into Lithuanian offshore wind when the legislation is prone to constant change and the mistrust between state and wind energy developers is big.”
Kasonen, however, insists that offshore wind energy plays an important role for Estonia.
“There is the understanding that it is important in the make-up of domestically generated energy and that it will be pivotal in the future,” he said.
Strategy and economy are very important in the decision making, too.
“Building wind farms in the Baltic Sea requires less money than in the North Sea. According to a recent analysis by Technical University of Denmark, a 500 MW offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea requires 1.4 billion euro ($US 1.59 billion) less in support than a similar project in the North Sea. We are not following the trend of going further and deeper from the coast,” Kasonen said.
The last of the closely-knit Baltic States, Latvia, is also reluctant to greenlight its offshore power projects. The country’s 200 MW offshore project known as Baltic Wind Park has been put on hold due to a moratorium on additional renewables capacity.
Lead image: Offshore wind turbine. Credit: Shutterstock.