Eesti Energia is planning to construct a billion-euro offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Riga (Liivi laht) close to Latvian territorial waters. A similar farm could be constructed on the Latvian side and, provided transmission network operators of both countries agree, the two could be used for a new Estonia-Latvia power link.
Eesti Energia has plans for a wind farm on 183 square kilometers made up of 160 turbines, with an average annual output of 1,000 megawatts. "We have been working on the Gulf of Riga project for a long time. We have completed initial seabed surveys, taken wind measurements, studied ice formation and bird life," said Priit Luts, press representative for the national energy company.
It is nevertheless unclear when the wind farm could materialize or how much it would cost to build. Eesti Energia will continue working on the development in the meantime.
"The government approved a right of superficies and environmental impact assessment for the Gulf of Riga wind farm in December. It is an important milestone for the project as it allows us to map out a detailed survey schedule," Luts said.
Eesti Energia hopes transmission network operator Elering will build a power cable to connect to the wind farm. Plans would see Latvian operator Augstsprieguma Tikls construct a cable to the wind farm on the Latvian side that could also connect to the Elering cable.
"The project entails major expenses in construction of power links – where and how to connect that potentially huge generator to the grid. State authorities, power system operators and partners in neighboring countries all have significant roles to play here," Luts explained.
"We believe that connecting infrastructure needs to be based on a realistic plan that would go beyond the needs of the wind farm. We have, in cooperation with our Latvian colleagues, proposed connecting the two wind farms, provided Latvia has plans to build a farm of its own in the region, that would create additional synergy between the two countries," Luts added.
"There can never be too many links between countries if we want to have a truly common electricity market. In this case, creating an additional link corridor could significantly boost renewable energy production, increase supply security and cross-border integration of power networks, killing several birds with one stone." Luts said. "It does not take long to find examples from Europe. The combined power link between Denmark and Germany dubbed the Kriegers Flak project has been built based on similar principles and makes it possible to supply wind power and facilitate electricity trading."
"Whatever the case, because the Gulf of Riga offshore wind farm project is so big, has an investment volume of over one billion euros, developer(s) need to find investors in the future. We want to accomplish this in a transparent manner, so that as many investors as possible would get the opportunity to partake in the biggest ever Estonian investment project," Luts said.
Important step toward carbon neutral economy
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the planned wind farm is an important part of moving toward carbon neutrality by 2050.
"With this goal in mind, utilizing the potential of wind power in the Baltic Sea is becoming increasingly important. Wind is stronger, more even and less of a problem for living environment at sea," Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas said.
Aas agrees that it is sensible to develop wind farms in cross-border cooperation, considering the sheer volume of projects.
The ministry also expects it to be possible to use EU Green Deal resources in cross-border renewable energy projects.
"The European Commission has promised to unveil its offshore wind farms strategy as part of the Green Deal package this year," Aas said. "The state would definitely support seeking EU co-financing for such joint projects," the minister added.
"Talking about the Gulf of Riga in general, we are close to an agreement for a joint wind farm zone with Latvia following the so-called Denmark-Netherlands model. The countries work together to find a suitable area, carry out surveys to determine its suitability and find an energy producer through a public competition." Aas explained.
Matter discussed on the level of prime ministers
Aas said the topic was also discussed at a recent Baltic prime ministerial meeting. "Once political goals have been aligned, Baltic power operators should take a bigger role to analyze in more detail how and where to build a network of power links to cover the Baltic Sea," the economy minister said.
"As concerns a network to cover the Baltic Sea, it cannot be a quick solution. It is a strategic heading with the 2050 climate neutrality vision in mind. That said, the realization of that vision requires the first steps to be taken today," Aas said.
Elering's vision bigger still
Estonian transmission network operator Elering finds that such cross-border projects and integration between the power systems of different countries make it possible to achieve lower carbon emissions in the Baltic region more cheaply and in less time. The company also perceives the possibility of a network of undersea cables crisscrossing the sea.
"Ideally, operators of all Baltic Sea countries could work together on such a network of connections, using EU subsidies. Existing offshore infrastructure would also render the area attractive for new production capacity investments. State could offer investors opportunities for developing wind farms based on the free market and commercial logic," CEO of Elering Taavi Veskimägi said.
"I presented the idea to my colleagues from the Baltic Sea region in November and during the Baltic prime ministerial before last. Because very ambitious climate policy targets have been set as part of the Green Deal and national climate and energy plans, while there are currently not enough tools to realize them, the Baltic Sea Offshore Grid could be one way to help regional network operators hit certain targets," Veskimägi said.
"Elering sees it as its mission for the next five years to keep the lights and heat on for Estonians while switching the Estonian power system from the Russian transmission system to working with the Mainland Europe system, at the same time supporting hitting Estonian and EU climate targets," he added.
Editor: Marcus Turovski