The success of building more wind farms than Estonia needs depends on energy links to neighboring countries. At worst, developers would have to pay to maintain idle turbines.
Plans for wind and solar developments to help cover domestic consumption exist until 2030. And the country's power grid should be able to handle that much, said Hannes Agabus, energy economy expert at TalTech. However, developers are looking at building additional offshore wind farms.
"Let us take a frank look at offshore wind power and these major projects. There are several, and everyone is talking about 1,000 megawatts. Looking at consumption forecasts, it is excessive for Estonia. Looking at Europe, we can find countries that would like to use our electricity. The question is how to get it to them," Agabus suggested.
Offshore wind farms could end up generating too much power for existing transfer capacity.
A similar problem has been created in the United Kingdom where turbines in Scotland and Northern Ireland generate more power than reaches consumers in the south. Last year, the British taxpayer had to pay €215 million for idle turbines to avoid overloading the cables.
Still, Estonia has no offshore wind farms at this time, said Terje Talv, executive manager of the Estonian Wind Power Association. This also means thorough seabed surveys have not been carried out.
"What this means is that we do not know how many turbines we can install and where exactly, what are the conditions regarding the first three [offshore] projects. In terms of the foundation which is supposed to support all of it. We have no certainty, so I don't see how we can talk about a potential surplus at this time," Talv said.
Developers want offshore power to turn Estonia into an energy exporter. However, it remains unclear whether the country can build the necessary cabling and who will pay for it. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson promised the European Commission's help, giving the example of the Baltics' synchronization with mainland Europe.
"EU funding has gone towards not just for the cable between Poland and Lithuania but also strengthening local Estonian and Latvian networks, which serve as preconditions for the synchronization. These things have received over €1.2 billion from the EU so far," Simson said.
Agabus also emphasized that this does not mean plans for offshore wind farms should be scrapped. But the country should decide whether we will only build enough offshore power for Estonia's needs or more.
"The developers want the government to take a stand. We should be clear in terms of how much [capacity] we need. And whether there is a measure for optimizing the use of these resources," Agabus remarked.
Editor: Marcus Turovski