Aidu windfarm developers demand €123.7 million compensation for halted work ({{commentsTotal}})

Police guarding the site of Aidu Wind Farm.
Police guarding the site of Aidu Wind Farm. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Two brothers behind a controversy-hit wind farm development in Ida-Viru County are asking for compensation from the Estonian state to the tune of €123.7 million following a Supreme Court ruling which said that construction permits were valid. Work at the site, at the village of Aidu, had been halted since May 2017 after lower-level courts said the building permits were invalid. The case also involved three different government ministries.

One of the two brothers, Oleg Sõnajalg, announced the €123.7 million figure requested, adding that they are prepared to compromise if building permission is for another wind farm at another location, BNS reports.

In a statement addressed to Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) and Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE), Oleg Sõnajalg said that due to the two-and-a-half-year suspension on work, it had not been possible for Aidu Tuulepark OÜ, the Sõnajalg brothers' company, to properly fulfill its obligations towards its contractual partners, which brings the damages to the figure quoted.

This figure also does not include lost income, but only direct expenses related to finanicing agreements, building permit fees and equipment costs.

The second proposed windfarm is at Tootsi in Pärnu County.

Oleg Sõnajalg said that if the latter gets built, this could mitigate some of the costs incurred by the shut-down.

"The aforementioned [deal to build a wind farm at Tootsi] would provide an opportunity to restart supply contracts suspended for two and half years, which in turn could provide room for negotiation for significantly reducing the damage claims," Sõnajalg said, according to BNS.

Background

The multi-faceted clash began when in 2017 the governor of Ida-Viru County asked the rural municipality where the Aidu wind farm is located, Lüganuse, to declare the Sõnajalg's building permits, dating from the previous year, invalid. The brothers planned to construct 30 3-MW wind turbines at the site. When the municipality refused to annul the permits, the governor took the matter to Tartu administrative court, which suspended the permit in May 2017.

Three ministries got involved, the justice ministry which pursued the matter on behalf of the Ida-Viru County governor, the defense ministry, which said Aidu's turbines exceeded the required height and interfered with its radar, and the environment ministry.

In addition, in April this year the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) demanded documentation on the Aidu wind farm, with potential fines up to up to €64,000 for non-compliance possible.

In July, the second-tier Tartu Circuit Court upheld the earlier 2017 decision that the permits were invalid. However, this month, the Supreme Court ruled that they were in fact valid, overruling the earlier decisions.

The Sõnajalgs said earlier this month that the decision meant the TTJA fine threat was off the table, something the latter rejects, and that Police and Border Guard Board surveillance equipment had not been removed from the Aidu territory, which they said it should have been following the judgment.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte



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