The bitterly cold winds that tear across the Baltic Sea have so far brought Estonia little but deadly winter storms and ships full of invaders. Though the country has used windmills for centuries to help with milling and water pumping, the powerful gusts that buffet Estonia’s coast have never been harnessed for any large scale business venture until now.
Estonia has become one of Europe’s hottest spots for investors looking to set up wind farms. A number of large scale wind energy projects are in the pipeline, and the Estonian government is doing all it can to help urge the blooming industry along.
Estonia wind energy is, of course, the number one resource for alternative energy, said Jaan Tepp, chairman of the Estonian Wind Power Association (EWPA). "We are surrounded on almost three sides by water. Our wind power resources are excellent. Our living density is low, and that is why people are really interested in developing renewable energy, he said.
According to a report from Statistics Estonia released earlier this year, in November the production of wind energy was up by about 80 percent year-on-year. Foreign investors and the Estonian government are pouring billions of kroons into developing the resource.
With wind turbine technology improving and the market price of energy on the rise, many feel that now is the perfect time to grab a slice of the alternative energy pie.
The Estonian Development Fund announced on Jan. 13 that it would buy a 21 percent stake in wind turbine technology developer Goliath Wind to help spur on the company’s research goals. Goliath is working on developing a wind turbine generator that would reduce expenses by 15 to 20 percent, drastically improving the financial viability of wind farm projects.
Moreover, Tepp said that Eesti Energia, the state-owned power company, is looking into developing approximately 100 megawatts worth of turbines which would roughly double the current amount of wind energy in the country.
Estonia at present gets 2-3 percent of its electricity supply from wind farms and alternative energy sources, but the share of renewable energy sources should rise to 25 percent by 2020 according to the development plan. Most of the green energy would come from wind turbines.
But that is just the beginning. The largest and most high profile of the upcoming wind farm projects on the drawing board is in Hiiumaa, Estonia’s second largest island in the Baltic Sea.
The Canada based Greta Energy is looking into plans to build a 1,000 megawatt offshore wind farm. According to its Web site, the company is also planning a 500 megawatt offshore wind farm in Purtse and a 300 megawatt farm on Hiiumaa Island itself.
Greta Energy is developing three wind farms in Estonia with the total capacity of approximately 80 MW. For the Purtse (40 MW) wind project, the construction is expected to commence in 2010. Detailed planning process has already started for the Udria wind farm (40 MW). For both projects, an updated bankable energy output report based on the two-year wind data was prepared by Garrad Hassan and Partners (UK). At the Hiiumaa Island sites, wind monitoring campaign was determined by Garrad Hassan and Partners and wind measurement at eight sites started as of November 15, 2007.
The Hiiumaa offshore project, which would see about 250 wind turbines erected off the coast of the island, would reportedly cost 6 to 7 billion kroons. Energy produced by the new wind farm would be exported to Sweden. It would be one of the largest wind farms in Europe.
The winds on Hiiumaa will sooner or later be taken into use. Average land wind speed in Estonia is four to five meters per second. On Hiiumaa, the average wind speed is 6.8 meters per second. Wind turbines already in place in the country work at maximum capacity when windspeeds are at 14 meters per second.
Estonia currently gets 2-3 percent of its power from wind energy. The current energy development plan would see that number increased to 25 percent by 2020. Denmark, famous for its windmills, has captured 62 percent of the world market for wind turbines.
Estonia has ratified several international agreements, like the European Energy Charter Treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and its protocols, and Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
The electricity production from renewable sources is subsidized. The network companies have the purchase obligation with the feed-in tariff 1.8 times higher than annual average selling price of large oil shale power plants. These subsidies are in force during 7 years after construction of plant for hydro and biomass power plants and during 12 years for the other renewable technologies. All subsidies end in 31 December 2015.