The government on Thursday approved the opening of superficies licenses and proceedings for the assessment of environmental impact with a view to setting up three wind farms in the Gulf of Riga.
The would-be wind farms are an offshore farm that state-owned Eesti Energia wishes to establish in the Gulf of Riga in Pärnu County, a wind power station that boat builder Baltic Workboats wishes to establish near the port of Nasva in Saaremaa, and a wind farm and aquaculture infrastructure that the company Tuuletraal OÜ from Viljandi County wishes to establish in internal sea in the Gulf of Riga, the government's communication office said.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas described wind farms as playing an overwhelming role in Estonia's movement towards climate neutrality in the future.
"If we wish to gradually reduce our dependence on oil shale electricity, we must also engage in preparing of alternatives already today. Several surveys have shown that one of the more realistic possibilities for doing it is by developing offshore wind farms," he said.
Aas said that the decision of the government marks a milestone, as there are no wind turbines in Estonia's coastal sea at present. He described fewer national defense related restrictions than apply to onshore wind farms, better wind conditions and less interference with people's day-to-day lives as advantages of offshore wind farms compared with existing solutions.
The biggest of the wind farms would be a farm of 160 turbines with a total capacity of 1,000 megawatts to be established by Eesti Energia on almost 183 square kilometers in a maritime area to the south of the island of Kihnu in the Gulf of Riga.
The manager of the Eesti Energia renewable energy arm Enefit Green, Aavo Karmas, said it has been agreed in the Parnu maritime area spatial plan that the area is well suited for the development of wind energy. Also the wind, ice and bird studies carried out by the company have demonstrated that the location is suitable for the establishment of an offshore wind farm.
"The wind farm in the Gulf of Riga has potential to become the first Estonian-Latvian joint project in the field of production of renewable energy, as the development area of a wind farm being planned by the Latvians lies just 10 kilometers from the Gulf of Riga wind farm. Estonia is lacking experience in the construction of an offshore wind farm, therefore it is logical that an offshore wind farm of that size will be executed in collaboration between several enterprises. The doors are open to partners for cooperation," Karmas said, adding that also cooperation between the ministries of economic affairs of Estonia and Latvia is important for the project to be successful.
Eesti Energia started planning of the Gulf of Riga wind farm in 2009, and has since conducted initial wind measurements as well as surveys of the sea bottom, ice, and bird populations. The process has taken almost 10 years, as the Parnu maritime area spatial plans that was initiated in 2012 was endorsed only in 2017.
The wind farm is expected to be completed before 2030, and in the project's development phase the developer will engage in comprehensive cooperation with the local community, including the rural municipalities of Kihnu and Haademeeste as well as their residents.
The company Tuuletraal is planning to put up 76 wind turbines with a total capacity of 380 megawatts and start farming aquaculture products, including mussels, in-between the turbines in an area situated about 30 kilometers from the coast and between 24 and 30 kilometers from Saaremaa, Kihnu and the continental part of Parnu County each. While the cable being planned would connect the wind farm with Laane County, the applicant for the superficies license is mulling a connection also with Latvia.
The smallest of the facilities would be a power generating station made up of a single four-megawatt turbine 90 meters high on the southern coast of Saaremaa. The station to be built by Five Wind Energy OU some 200 meters from the shore near the port of Nasva would consist of an artificial island, bank protection, and breakwaters.
The superficies licenses would be valid for 50 years. The superficies license proceedings must be conducted as open proceedings to ensure as broad-based as possible inclusion of residents and heeding their justified interests.
Editor: Helen Wright