What is ELWIND?
ELWIND is a joint Estonian-Latvian state-run cross-border offshore wind project aiming to raise energy independence in the region by increasing production of green energy and improving interstate electricity connectivity. This unique project linking the two countries could serve as a good example for other countries to increase the security of electricity supply in the whole region. The ELWIND project aims to contribute to the countries’ renewable energy targets and energy security by increasing offshore wind energy production capacity in Estonia and Latvia. It is planned to attract EU funding to implement the cooperation project.
Why have the states decided to develop an offshore wind park in parallel with the private sector?
The cross-border Estonia and Latvia state-led offshore wind project gives the states the assurance that offshore wind will become a reality and wind parks will come without state subsidies, i.e. it gives the states an additional guarantee that the renewable energy targets set will be met. In addition, the implementation of the project will ensure that the states have a better understanding of the bottlenecks in the sector, thus allowing the states to be a better partner for the sector and offering the opportunity to become a centre of excellence for the whole region. In addition, a state-led predeveloped site will give the winner of a preferred or short-listed bid the certainty that a wind park can be built on the site, i.e. the concept takes a very significant risk off the potential private developers.
Why this concept?
The ELWIND project aims to contribute to the acceleration of the green transition in Estonia and Latvia through a cross-border state-led energy security project. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) has been developed at the EU level for the implementation of such projects to promote the transnational transmission of renewable electricity, with the aim of keeping the costs of project implementation as low as possible while creating maximum benefits for society. ELWIND has been listed on the first list of renewable energy cross-border (CB RES) projects under the EU´s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) which enables to apply additional funding for studies.
On July 11 the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) published its decision to grant the ELWIND project 18,8 million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility for cross-border renewable energy projects to cover the costs for the studies needed to research the marine area in both countries in the pre-development phase.
Why is the ELWIND area located where it is?
The Estonian and Latvian states have commissioned a prefeasibility study that analysed thoroughly different environmental, socio-economic and technical criteria (i.a. the impact on birds, fish, nature, but also looked into the sea bottom, ice- and wind conditions) to define the most suitable area for a potential offshore wind park.
|According to the knowledge we have today, Saaremaa waters have the most suitable conditions in the Estonian maritime area to develop offshore wind energy.
Saaremaa area has stronger winds, better ice conditions and, based on the available data, less impact on migratory birds, seals and fish than other areas, and therefore, overall, the most favourable conditions for offshore wind farms compared to other areas.
The planned ELWIND area remains in its totality within the borders of the designated offshore wind development area foreseen by the Estonian maritime spatial plan.
|According to the knowledge we have today, the waters at the Western coast between Liepāja and Ventspils have the most suitable conditions in the Latvian maritime area to develop offshore wind energy.
The Western coast between between Liepāja and Ventspils has been defined most feasible for offshore wind park development due to good wind conditions, better ice conditions, and is more suitable due to better seabed geology. Additionally, the conflict potential with wildlife is considerably lower.
The planned ELWIND area remains in its total within the borders of the designated offshore wind development area foreseen by the Latvian maritime spatial plan.
When will ELWIND be constructed and producing electricity?
We have set 2030 as the target year, but the actual completion of the project will depend on a number of factors, including the final design of the project, and whether additional planning processes need to be initiated to connect to the main grid. And, finally, it will depend on the supply chain, i.e. the existing resources and their availability. As all EU countries have set 2030 as the first milestone for achieving their national climate targets, we must be prepared for the scarcity or unavailability of the specific resources needed to set up wind parks. This can range from specialised experts and skilled workers to the availability of wind park installation support vessels and harbours suitable for constructing, storing, and installing of wind turbine elements, at the end of this decade. This could become a major obstacle to the completion of many wind parks by 2030
How will a large-scale wind park affect the surrounding nature?
In general, offshore wind energy development areas in Estonian and Latvian maritime spatial plans are defined to have the least possible conflicts with environmental values. The construction of offshore wind parks will be preceded by comprehensive environmental impact assessments, including an assessment of the impact on birds, bats, seals and fish. Among the socio-economic impacts, attention will certainly be paid to visual impacts. Buffer zones to facilitate the movement of birds, seals and other marine wildlife are planned to be left between the different wind parks. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may also identify circumstances that would lead to further reductions in the wind energy development areas designated in the Maritime Spatial Plan.
How have existing wind parks in the Baltic Sea so far affected fish, birds, marine vegetation?
In general, offshore wind energy development areas in Estonian and Latvian maritime spatial plans are defined to have the least possible conflicts with environmental values. The ELWIND site is also located in a wind energy development area designated by the established Maritime Spatial Plans. These areas have been assessed based on various criteria as the most suitable marine area for wind parks, which means that the likelihood of potential conflicts, including with fisheries and birdlife, is lower. As part of the permitting procedure, a full-scale environmental impact assessment will be carried out, which will also need to address issues such as the impact on, inter alia, marine life and birdlife.
|In Estonia, several studies on the impact on fish spawning and hearing and bird migration are currently underway and we will of course report the results to the public as soon as possible. For example, studies carried out in Denmark on the impact of offshore wind parks have shown that there are no major negative effects on marine life in cases where planning has been comprehensive. However, the effects may vary from one location to another, and therefore, it is better to wait for the results of the studies in Estonian coastal waters.
|To obtain permission for the development of a wind park, the Environmental Impact Assessment will be carried out, which assesses the impact on birds, bats, seals, etc.; if the EIA studies results show conflicts or expert opinion is negative, then other solutions for the wind park will be explored or in the extreme case the development of the park will be cancelled.
Will the wind park be visible from the coast and how it will affect the view?
Offshore wind parks, that are built 10 or even 15 km from the shore are visible on the horizon, but the turbines, being at least 1 km apart inside the wind park, are not really affecting the view so much it would cause extensive disturbances. A wind park located about 35 km offshore is not visible at all but is more expensive to build and to maintain.
What is ELWIND wind parks life span and what happens after?
An average offshore wind park is fully operational for about 25 years. This would be valid also for ELWIND. It is safe to assume, that by the time the actual building of ELWIND will start, the technology of the materials, including the wind generator blades, has advanced to the point that it will enable to reutilize or recycle the parts of a decommissioned wind park.
What is ELWINDs environmental/carbon footprint?
The EU Member States have agreed on climate targets that will require us to shift from fossil fuel-based energy production to renewable sources. Replacing fossil fuel-based electricity production with an 1000MW offshore wind park, would save approximately 3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. This is about the size of the future ELWIND parks. This CO2 reduction is comparable with the amount of total CO2 emissions from transport sector in Estonia or Latvia each year. Therefore, the amount of electricity generated in ELWIND wind parks would cover the needs to fully electrify the Estonian or Latvian transport sector.
In broad terms, wind energy is cheaper than fossil fuel-based energy production and has a much lower environmental impact. Studies show that wind produces 11 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt of electricity produced. While coal, for example, produces 1,000 grams of CO2 for the same amount of electricity (Bernstein Research, 2021).
What role does a wind park play in energy security?
Offshore wind parks are an important part of our autonomous energy production, which will give us greater energy independence and thus increase our energy security. The more energy production we have in the Baltic States and the more energy interconnected we are, the stronger we will feel in terms of energy security. The ELWIND project will also help to foster cross-border cooperation, which is crucial from the energy security point of view because it helps to show solidarity in crises and strengthens the integration of like-minded countries. A joint cross-border project will strengthen ties and reduce the possibility of unexpected moves.
What will the energy export bring to Estonia and Latvia?
The money from the sale of energy stays in the country, benefiting society and states economy. It certainly benefits energy security, security of supply and affordable energy prices. It will surely increase the competitiveness of the country’s overall, increasing the attractiveness for investments and business making. However, our main objective in developing wind parks is to meet the needs of our own people and offer them the best possible affordable price. Only after that comes export.
Latvia and Estonia are among European countries having great potential for the offshore wind power generation. The wind is one of our national resources that has not been fully appreciated or exploited. By making large scale offshore wind projects a reality, Latvia and Estonia have the potential to move from electricity importers to electricity exporters, which will help to maintain stable electricity prices for consumers, and this will also boost the region’s economy.
What are the gains and benefits from ELWIND for the people in Estonia and Latvia?
With the realisation of the ELWIND project, an important large-scale renewable production will be added to the market, contributing to more stable and affordable electricity prices across the region. All people in Estonia and Latvia will benefit through affordable electricity prices.
In addition, such large project will bring direct economic benefits to local communities through the local benefit instrument in Estonia and will fill the state treasury through the imposed building charge to be paid by the developer, for the right to encumber the public water body.
Another important factor is that fossil fuel-based energy production is being phased out and at the same time the whole Europe is in transition to electromobility, meaning that electricity consumption is increasing and there is urgent need for more green electricity.
How could the local population and local municipalities benefit from wind parks / from ELWIND?
It could be said that a large offshore wind park will serve as a booster for local life! The operational lifetime of a wind park is around 25-30 years, which means decades of security for the local community in terms of jobs and benefits.
Offshore wind parks require an onshore maintenance base, which is usually located in a port as close as possible to the wind park to optimise the operational costs. Experience in other countries has shown that the relatively high-paying jobs that can be created there will also attract other activities. Local learning opportunities will appear, as the wind park maintenance bases require the training of professionals with new skills. Increased learning and employment opportunities will keep young people in their home communities in the offshore wind park areas, creating a stronger basis for an overall sustainable development in the region.
Elsewhere in the world, different options are available for locals to benefit from wind parks, such as allowing local people to invest into wind energy themselves. Depending on developer’s approach these options could be discussed in the future.
|The offshore wind park will bring financial benefits to local residents through their municipality that will be compensated through the local benefit models.
|Latvia is currently looking into the legislative options for developing local benefit models that would benefit the local municipalities and population. The question for offshore compensation mechanism is not on the current agenda.
How much will ELWIND cost, and which means will be used to fund it?
|The states are pre-developing the areas, meaning that all necessary studies are conducted to receive licences to use the areas for wind energy generation. The technical and EIA studies for the area and grid in Estonia are estimated to cost around 20-25 million EUR. This is the cost that the state has to be ready to invest at first place.
ELWIND has been listed on the first list of renewable energy cross-border (CB RES) projects under the EU´s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) which enables to apply up to 50% funding for studies helping to keep impact to the end consumers at reasonable level.
On July 11 2023 the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) published its decision to grant the ELWIND project 18,8 million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility for cross-border renewable energy projects to cover the costs for the studies needed to research the marine area in both countries in the pre-development phase.
Today, the Estonian state uses the proceeds from the auctioning of CO2 quotas to budget for the project, but the costs incurred will be added to the starting price of the auction, i.e. the costs incurred for the studies ordered by the state will be charged back from the winner of the auction.
|The states are predeveloping the areas, meaning that all necessary studies are conducted to receive licences to use the areas for wind energy generation.
The studies and EIA are estimated to cost around €20 million, including the cost of the studies for the hybrid network (around €6 million).
ELWIND has been listed on the first list of renewable energy cross-border (CB RES) projects under the EU´s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) which enables to apply up to 50% funding for studies helping to keep impact to the end consumers at reasonable level.On July 11 2023 the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) published its decision to grant the ELWIND project 18,8 million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility for cross-border renewable energy projects to cover the costs for the studies needed to research the marine area in both countries in the pre-development phase.
The state will eventually arrange an auction, either based on competitive or selective bidding principles in order to find developers who will build and operate the wind parks based on agreed terms.
What happens when the wind is not blowing?
It is true that wind turbines do not produce electricity during periods when the wind is not blowing. The wind turbines need wind to operate. Most modern wind turbines need a minimum wind speed of 3 m/s to start up, and there are very few days in the Estonian and Latvian western maritime areas when there is not enough wind to run the turbines. Even when the sea level is completely calm, the wind is usually present at the height of the wind turbine rotor, at an altitude of about 150-200 m.
|The development of wind parks around the world goes hand in hand with the development of storage technologies to ensure that energy is available when the wind is not blowing. Together with sufficient storage capacity, wind energy could in the future make up the largest share of Estonia’s energy mix.
|To guard against such events, Latvia also needs to develop solar energy solutions and maintain existing hydroelectric power plants. It is a comprehensive solution that will make it possible to ensure that electricity can be produced independently of the weather and of third-country suppliers
How tensely can the Estonian, Latvian maritime area be built with the wind parks?
It is certainly not the case that the sea will be densely packed with wind parks. Current plans are for the first offshore wind park to be completed by the end of this decade.
|Estonia’s maritime territory is 35,000 m2 and there are only 4-5% of areas suitable for offshore wind parks, and even if these areas are suitable, it does not mean that they will all be densely packed with wind turbines.
This is a theoretical maximum and is certainly greater than the need today. In fact, these areas need to be a little larger than today’s needs, so that there is competition, and so that the best projects can succeed. The wind energy development areas established in the maritime spatial plan are the defined as most suitable for offshore wind power generation according to the conducted studies. Nevertheless, if the various studies and environmental impact assessments show that a certain, very concrete location is not the best place for a wind park, then no wind generators will be built there.
The theoretical maximum production potential in offshore wind parks would be around 7GW. Estonia’s peak consumption is 1.5GWh. So, the maximum potential production capacity is several times higher than Estonia’s own needs and we have a great potential to become an energy exporting country again. At the same time, we need to consider and increase our transmission system capacity, our current electricity grid cannot handle additional 7GWh of electricity production.
|Latvia`s maritime area is 28 348 km2 and there are only 5,8% of areas suitable for offshore wind parks. It is foreseeable that there could be several such parks along the Latvian coast in the future, but it does not mean that all suitable areas will be densely packed with wind turbines.
The development of specific projects will depend on the interest of investors and their perceived business opportunities in the market and all offshore wind parks will be built in accordance with a marine spatial plan designed in the interests of the environment and society.
According to preliminary estimates, Latvia’s offshore wind energy potential could reach 15.50 GW, generating 49.20 TWh of electricity per year. This is a theoretical maximum and is certainly greater than the need today.
Will a wind park affect our national defence?
|Definitely not. This means Estonia will invest around €70 million in various systems to ensure that wind parks no longer interfere with radars. At present, almost 85% of the Estonian mainland is still subject to height restrictions imposed by the defence forces for the construction of wind parks, in addition to nature conservation restrictions.The radar limitations will be not an issue for offshore wind parks in Riga Bay after these investments have been made. There are no conflicts with military radar interaction on ELWIND Estonian wind park area.
|Latvia is currently looking into the options on how to upgrade the defence technology, shall such a need arise from developing wind parks. One of the possibilities would be introducing a compensation mechanism as set out in the annotation of the respective draft law. In this case, each project would be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Ministry of Defence to determine the concrete needs. After the assessment, the technically most appropriate and economically most viable solution would be selected, the amount of expenditure determined and paid in accordance with a written agreement setting out the form and modalities of the eventual compensation.