Estonian offshore wind plan advances with island deal

Nelja Energia moved closer to building a 700MW-1.1GW offshore wind array off Estonia after signing an agreement with the local government on Hiiumaa island, as the Baltic nation's government becomes more involved in trying to secure financing from another EU member state.

“We signed the agreement with the Hiiu (Hiiumaa island) local government last week,” Nelja Energia’s (4 Energia) chief executive Martin Kruus tells Recharge.

Consent from the locals on the island in the Baltic Sea was considered crucial for the Hiiumaa Offshore Tuulepark project 12km northwest of the island, whose inhabitants in the past had been critical of the project.

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“The EIA (environmental impact assessment) was also recently finished and is now waiting for the approval from the Ministry of Environment after which we can receive the necessary permits for building.”

Kruus adds, however, that no investment decision has been taken yet for the Hiiumaa offshore project, which currently doesn’t feature among the company’s short-term (until 2020) pipeline of projects.

“A big offshore wind farm simply takes longer than the planning and construction of a CHP plant or onshore wind farm extensions. We are, however, moving on like planned.”

Kruus added that negotiations about using an EU co-operation mechanism in order to get the project financed by another EU member state are ongoing, and now enjoy more backing from the government in Tallinn.

“Our government has recently become more involved,” Kruus reveals.

Under the EU’s current renewable energy directive, there are three mechanisms that allow member states to achieve their national renewables target in co-operation with other member states: statistical transfer, joint projects, and joint support schemes.

Countries lagging in their renewables ambitions (without necessarily bordering on Estonia) could thus finance a project off Estonia and have the volume accounted for towards their own goal.

Nelja Energia also has the 400MW Baltic Energy Group UAB offshore project off the coast of Lithuania in its pipeline.

Offshore projects in the more northern parts of the Baltic Sea can face ice during part of the winter, narrowing down the time-frame for construction, while also rendering operation and maintenance somewhat more difficult.

Developer and operator Suomen Hyötytuuli in July completed the construction in waters relatively close to Estonia of its 42MW pilot near-shore array off Tahkoluoto Island on the Finnish west coast, where it is gaining valuable experiences with the construction and operation of wind farms in icy waters.

A delegation from Finland earlier this year visited the Tahkoluoto construction site.