There are currently 150 wind turbines in Estonia. This year, an additional nine turbines at Utilitas' Saarde wind farm will be added to that total, while in the coming years, the 38-turbine Sopi-Tootsi wind farm is set to almost double the amount of wind energy produced in Estonia.
Just over a fifth of the energy consumed in Estonia in 2020 was produced from renewable sources. However, that is expected to almost double in the next seven years. According to the Estonian Ministry of Climate, wind energy has the highest growth potential, with production expected to quadruple by 2030.
To date, 150 wind turbines with a capacity of 340 megawatts (MW) have been installed in Estonia. In addition, Utilitas' Saarde wind farm is also due to be completed in the final quarter (Q4) of this year.
Terje Talv, CEO of the Estonian Wind Power Association, told ERR that the Saarde wind farm will have a total of nine 230-meter-high wind turbines. Talv added, that the grid tests have been carried out, operating permits are in hand and the first three turbines are already in operation. The wind farm has a generation capacity of 38.7 megawatts and will produce 135 gigawatt-hours of energy per year.
Estonia's largest wind farm is set to be built by Enefit Green in Sopi-Tootsi. The farm, which will contain 38 wind turbines and have a generation capacity of 255 megawatts, is expected to be operational by the second quarter (Q2) of 2025. The farm's 241-meter-high turbines will produce 680 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.
However, there are also a number of other potential developments, for which the timescale and likelihood of completion remain unclear.
Hundreds of developments in the pipeline
Kaili Viilma, head of the Estonian Environmental Board's nature management department, said that it is very difficult to provide a numerical overview of the plans for future wind farms.
This is because there are new developments and ideas, as well as changes to the theoretical mapping of different possibilities at various planning stages every day. They also overlap to some extent and change during the planning process.
"Hundreds of different developments are underway and at different stages. Last year there were over 300 procedures related to them, and this year, as of August, there are nearly 200," said Viilma.
Viilma added, that among these procedures are possible wind farm site options in either general plan or specific plans, as well as planning applications that have reached a slightly more advanced stage. Some have also already gained approval for their designs and construction permits.
"However, to a very large extent, the initial siting options for a wind farm in a general or specific plan may never lead to the creation of a more detailed planning solution," said Viilma.
On its website, the Estonia Wind Power Association lists six planning applications for which construction permit procedures have been initiated. These are Enefit Green's Hiiumaa and Liivi development, Five Find Energy's Nasva development, Tuuletraal OÜ's Liivi Bay project, Saare Wind Energy's project for a wind farm on Saaremaa and Utilitas' planning for the Saare-Livi 5 development.
Last week, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) announced its intention to launch a building permit procedure following an application from German company Aker Offshore Wind. The company wants to build an offshore wind farm in the Saare 1 area, 60 kilometers west of Saaremaa.
The company's plan foresees the construction of 50 wind turbines, at a height of up to 350 meters above sea level and rotor diameters of up to 320 meters. Each wind turbine is earmarked to have a total generation capacity of up to 30 megawatts, with the entire park able to generate as much as 1,000 megawatts of electricity.
Many development sites scrapped due to local opposition
The Estonian Environmental Board plays a coordinating role at all three planning levels: general planning, specific planning and detailed planning.
"The names, areas and boundaries of development sites change over time and are at very different stages of the Environmental Board's approval process, from the initial site selection stage to the approval of construction permits," explained Viilma.
He added, that the Environmental Board has begun examining its wind energy development process in order to ensure a better overview in the future.
A number of factors have an influence on whether, and how quickly, an idea for the construction of a wind farm becomes seen as a feasible plan, said Viilma.
The process depends on the interest of developers, the availability of experts, the quality of studies and environmental data, the results of environmental impact assessments and public attitudes.
Elering's readiness to provide interconnections also plays a role, as do agreements with landowners, suppliers, builders and several other factors Another factor, which is difficult to predict, is the emergence of disputes surrounding potential sites.
"There are a range of debates happening about a huge number of potential development sites - from their location, boundaries, surveys required, project solutions, necessary mitigation measures to protect wildlife and communities, and so on. Local interest groups play an important role, and their opposition to the public consultation process means that many development sites that were initially identified as suitable have now been dropped," said Viilma.
First wind farm established 21 years ago
Estonia's oldest wind farm is located in Virtsu, Pärnu County, and is owned by Enefit Green. The Virtsu I wind farm began operating in 2002 and its three turbines have a combined total generation capacity of 1.8 megawatts.
In 2005, Enefit Green's Pakri wind farm, which now has eight turbines with a total generation capacity of 18.4 megawatts, and Esivere wind farm, with four wind turbines and a generating capacity of eight megawatts, both began operating.
From 2007, dozens of new wind farms were added each year, bringing the total to 140 by 2016.
During this period, wind farms were constructed in Nasva, Viru-Nigula, Ruhnu, Sanglas, Turku, Aulepa, Vanaküla, Tooma, Narva, Paldiski, Sikassaari, Ojaküla, Tamba, Mälli, Aburi, Salmi, Torga and Tooma.
However, the momentum of wind farm construction then slowed down somewhat. It took four years until the next wind farm was operational in Estonia, when Eesti Ühistuenergia opened the first phase of Varja wind farm in 2020. That farm now has five wind turbines with a generation capacity of 10 megawatts.
Three years on from that Enefit Green opened a solar and wind park in Purtse, this summer. The 21-megawatt facility has five wind turbines along with a solar farm containing almost 49,000 panels.
Enefit Green has a total of 18 wind farms in Estonia: Virtsu I, II and III, Pakri, Esivere, Viru-Nigula, Ruhnu, Aulepa, Vanaküla, Tooma I and II, Aulepa, Azeriaru, Narva, Paldiski, Ojaküla and Purtse. The largest is the Aulepa wind farm in Lääne County, which has 16 turbines and a total capacity of 48 megawatts. The farm generates around 80 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.
Tuuleenergia OÜ also has several wind farms in Estonia, including the Tambla wind farm, which has three turbines and the Mäli wind farm, which has four. Their capacities are six megawatts and 12 megawatts respectively.
Editor: Michael Cole