Private sector wind farm developers say defense ministry blocking progress

Wind farm private sector developers at Friday's press conference, together with Martin Helme's advisor Kersti Kracht.
Wind farm private sector developers at Friday's press conference, together with Martin Helme's advisor Kersti Kracht. Source: ERR

Several entrepreneurs representing private sector wind farm projects in Estonia held a press conference Friday in which they accused the Ministry of Defence of obstructing their plans. Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), who has lately emerged as something of an ally to the entrepreneurs despite the main issues not lying within his ministry's remit, was reportedly in attendance at the press conference.

Olavi-Jüri Luik of OÜ Neugrund laid out how the past 13 years his company has been trying to erect an offshore windfarm off the northwestern coast of Estonia, with new obstacles being encountered along the way.

Luik said that the defense ministry had evaluated four zones for firing ranges, one of which was in the same area that Neugrund OÜ wanted to have its wind farm, making it impossible to go ahead with the project.

"All agencies confirm that the establishment of offshore wind farms is in Estonia's interest. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Defence is fighting against it," Luik said.

Harry Raudvere also described his experiences in establishing wind farms at Päite-Vaivina and Varja in eastern Estonia, where he said they were also prevented from developing due to a recurring claim by the mnistry that turbines would interfere with its radar.

Raudvere claimed that less than 1 percent of a radar's image is obscured by the Varja wind farm, which is located close to Aidu, site of the most well-known wind farm controversies.

According to Raudvere, entrepreneurs have suffered hundreds of millions of damages arising from state activities.

Ants Pilving, a spokesman for the Vaivara wind farm, also in Ida-Viru County, made similar claims, saying the county plan for Vaivara municipality provides for wind farms at Auvere, but again the Ministry of Defence is blocking them.

Oleg Sõnajalg said he estimated his company, Eleon, would make losses of €200,000 a month as a result of the state's blocking of the use of the two turbines already constructed at Aidu, despite winning a Supreme Court case which declared the Aidu construction permits valid If wind turbines with the new technology cannot be put into operation, they cannot be certified, nor can they be exported, Sõnajalg, who co-owns Eleon with his brother Andres, said (Eleon make wind turbines).

Sõnajalg claimed 40,000 people work in the wind farm sector in Denmark, and since Estonia also needs wind energy, it is possible to kick-off a similar industry in Estonia. Sõnajalg noted Eleon is not afraid of competition from turbines made either by Siemens or Vestas.

According to the entrepreneurs, state officials are blocking the private sector because they want to favor the state-owned enterprise Eesti Energia.

Kersti Kracht, adviser to finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), who attended the press conference, strongly accused not only officials but also journalists of being biased, on the grounds they represented the views of officials on the topic.

Martin Helme has recently emerged as something of an ally for the Sõnajalg brothers. The body the latter have the most issues with at present, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) , is not under the finance ministry's remit, but rather the ministry of economic affairs and communications (minister: Taavi Aas (Centre).

Eesti Energia, via its Enefit Green subsidiary, owns several wind farms with over 150 turbines.

Riigikogu renewable energy support group wants dialogue with defense ministery

According to Lauri Läänemets (SDE), chairman of the Riigikogu renewable energy support group, the state and private sector developers of wind farms should cooperate more than they have done up to now.

"It is unfortunate to hear developers say the state, via the ministry [of defense], has obstructed their activities. The government decided in early November that planning for marine protected areas would also focus on the impact of such activities on the creation of offshore wind farms," ​​said Läänemets.

"We intend to discuss the issue separately with the Ministry of Defence, in order to improve communication with entrepreneurs and thus prevent recurrence of past problems," said Läänemets.

ERR has reached out to the Ministry of Defence for comment on the issue; ERR also obtained the minutes of a round table involving Neugrund OÜ, and representatives of three ministries: Finance, enviroment, and defense.

That document and the entire press conference (in Estonian) can be viewed here.

The long-running Aidu wind park/Eleon saga has involved all three of these ministries, along with the justice ministry.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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