Sõnajalgs pulling wind farm development activities out of Estonia

Eleon owners Andres and Oleg Sõnajalg.
Eleon owners Andres and Oleg Sõnajalg. Source: ERR

Businessmen brothers Oleg and Andres Sõnajalg are relocating all wind farm development activities outside of Estonia, Baltic News Service reports. The move follows years of conflict between their company, Eleon, which had part-developed a wind farm at Aidu in eastern Estonia, and the Estonian state.

Oleg Sõnajalg told regional daily Meie Maa on Thursday that the malevolence of officials and the overall environment in Estonia was behind their decision.

"State officials have adopted a stance whereby no negotiations can be held with entrepreneurs," he said, according to BNS.

"But we will complete the Aidu wind farm anyway, whatever the price. The auction of the land of the Tootsi wind farm gave a clear indication of what the value of a wind farm is and what forces are controlling the processes in reality. It makes no sense to be naive and believe that the obstacles arose just as a result of the mean-spirited behavior of some individual official," Sõnajalg added. added.

Land designated for a wind farm at Tootsi in Pärnu County was bought by state-owned power generator Eesti Energia for €51.5 million on Tuesday. The opening price at the auction, run by the state forestry commission (RMK), stood at €12.3 million, while earlier valuations of the land in question had stood at a little over €4 million. Three other bidders took part in the auction; Eleon was not among them.

"We have dedicated all of our energy to [wind farms] over the past year. Having been able to invent and put on the market so innovative a product with such a competitive edge, we can also find a suitable economic environment for this technology [elsewhere] in the world, where it might emerge as the Tesla of wind energy," Oleg Sonajalg said.

Sõnajalgs required to take down Aidu turbine

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA)  issued an injunction to Eleon Green, Eleon's renewables subsidiary, to remove the blades of wind turbine number five, already erected at Aidu wind farm. However, the authority says that they have not yet done so, though the injunction gave a six-month period from its start.

At the core of the dispute between Eleon and the Estonian state is Ministry of Defense claims that the company's turbines were beyond a height limit set to stop them interfering with ministry radar, making the issue one of national security.

The TTJA has been conducting thorough supervision proceedings regarding the Aidu wind farm since March 2019, and has analyzed the impact assessments of the wind turbines provided by the developer, according to BNS, considered compromise proposals and repeatedly reviewed threat assessments carried out by the Ministry of Defense, the authority said last week.

"During the proceedings, it has been determined that the threat to national security is real and has already been realized; the wind turbines erected at Aidu wind farm are interfering with the work of the national defense advance warning systems, and it will take several years to purchase an additional radar," the TTJA said last week via a press release.

"Since national security is a priority and no solution proposed by the developer today eliminates the threat to national security, the blades of windmill number 5 must be removed," the TTJA continued.

Eleon also manufactures wind turbines.

"The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority has not been in contact with the Sõnajalgs after making the injunction," the TTJA told BNS Friday.

"The lawyer representing [the Sõnajalgs] requested the file of the proceedings, which we also handed over. All is currently quiet at the location (i.e. Aidu-ed.); the blades have not been removed from wind turbine number five. Eleon Green OÜ has been given six months, starting from the date of the injunction, to remove the blades," the TTJA spokespeople continued.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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