Estonia plans world's largest offshore wind farm

By bne IntelliNews March 27, 2013

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Estonia could soon be hosting one of the world's biggest offshore wind farms, an investor claimed on March 26, as development of the renewable energy at the eastern end of the Baltic Sea finally starts to lift off.

Baltic Blue Energy - owned by local transport and energy mogul Endel Siff - announced on March 26 that it has submitted an application for permission to build a 2.7-gigawatt (GW) wind farm at the western end of the Estonian coast, between Hiiumaa and Saaremaa islands. However, instead of the full 388 turbines that would signify, BBB said it plans to limit the project to 1.9GW for now.

Siff told reporters that Estonia is among Europe's leading states in wind resource, lagging only the UK, although he offered little detail. "Sea wind parks don't disturb people and sea winds are stable," the investor insisted, according to Leta. BBB is currently waiting for a response to its construction application filed with the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

"We have applied for bigger capacity and bigger area to carry out wind studies," BBB's Karl Magi said. "After the studies we will choose the most suitable areas for building the wind energy park." He added that the start of construction - which should cost around €1.5m per megawatt - will not happen for at least five years.

An avalanche of announcements of giant new offshore wind farms has appeared recently. It's likely no coincidence that the headline grabbing schemes and promises of huge investment come just as EU and member state governments look to ease off on renewable energy incentives that they claim are overly-generous.

Currently, the world's largest offshore wind farm is the UK's 504MW Greater Gabbard, and the largest project under construction is Moray Offshore Renewables' London Array (630MW). However, Sweden's massive 2.5GW Blekinge Offshore is currently awaiting permission to go ahead from environmental authorities.

That only serves to illustrate just how much the development of offshore wind at the eastern end of the Baltic lags developments further west. In 1991, the first ever commercial offshore wind farm was installed in Vindeby, Denmark, and several of the world's largest facilities are clustered around the western Baltic, operated by Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Poland launched its first tenders for licences in its patch of the Baltic last year and received over 150 applications. However, the vast majority of plots were delayed due to a request from the environment ministry, which wants to allow shale gas exploration to take place before the licences are handed out, meaning just five concessions were granted.

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