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Photos: Prep work begins for hilltop radar station in Ida-Viru County

Work is now underway at the top of a hill in the Alutaguse Municipality village of Kalina, the future site of an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) radar station. Together with a second one planned for Hiiumaa, this active radar will free up significant swaths of Estonian territory for the construction of wind turbines of unrestricted height.

The defense radar, which is being built on top of a spoil tip on the property of the former Viru oil shale mine, is slated to enter operation at the end of next year. At the northern end of the Virumaa region, however, height restrictions on wind turbines will be lifted on June 1 already.

"One passive radar delivery already took place at the end of this year, so we'll be covering this gap from mid-next year timewise with this new passive surveillance system that will cover the Viru region," explained Priit Soosaar, strategic category manager for C4I, cyber and radars at the Estonian Center for Defense Investment (ECDI).

The active radars to be built in Ida-Viru County and on the Western Estonian island of Hiiumaa are capable of identifying flying objects at a range of up to 500 kilometers. These radars will smooth the process of constructing new wind farms in Estonia, however some restrictions will nonetheless remain in effect.

Developers of solar parks located within the vicinity of military objects, for example, will have to change their plans. Enefit Green thus had to cut back its plans for a solar park on top of the Estonia mine spoil tip, located not far from the future Viru radar station, nearly halving its initial planned capacity.

"Yes, it could have been more powerful, but the building permit was issued for this capacity and then we couldn't build a bigger one," Enefit Green CEO Aavo Kärmas said. "Authorization is needed from the Ministry of Defense for every solar park to be built here. We'll decide accordingly based on whether such authorizations are granted."

The ECDI is working together with the EDF to seek middle ground between enhancing defense capabilities and economic interests while also ensuring that Estonia's defense capabilities aren't compromised. It is for this reason that a multilayered aerial surveillance project was launched years ago, which aims to take the aforementioned aspects into account.

"Solar parks and wind farms affect the work of our systems, and will continue to do so," Soosaar explained. "Nevertheless, we've found optimal solutions as well as relocated various systems in order to enable the industry to fulfill its goals of developing green or renewable energy."

The twin radars going up in Ida-Viru County and later on the island of Hiiumaa cost a total of more than €50 million exclusive of VAT.

Map indicating the parts of Estonian territory that will be freed from wind turbine height restrictions after the two new radar stations are completed. Source: Ministry of Defense

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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