Today the majority of the Baltic states believe offshore wind is one of the pillars of energy transition. Regional cooperation with other countries on the Baltic coast, including Poland, may accelerate energy transition. This is also an opportunity for Polish industry – writes Patrycja Rapacka, editor at BiznesAlert.pl.
Our eastern neighbors are planning to increase renewable energy sources (RES) in energy generation and limit its import by developing, among others, offshore energy on the Baltic Sea. Vilnius adopted its National Energy Independence Strategy in June 2018. The document says that in 2020 RES should cover 30 percent of the country’s power consumption, 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Lithuania wants to rely only on energy generated in the country. One of the goals is to assess the potential of the offshore wind sector and to attract investments in producing those technologies in the Port of Klaipeda. The potential is huge. In 2019 the University of Klaipeda conducted research on behalf of the ministry of energy in Lithuania’s Baltic Sea waters, and concluded 3.35 GW could be installed there. In May 2020 the ministry presented the plans for investing in offshore wind, according to which about 700 MW in wind power could be installed. The farm could generate 2.5-3 THh of energy a year, which could cover about 25 percent of Lithuania’s demand. The investment area is 137.5 square kilometers and is 29 kilometers away from the shore. The average depth of the sea is 35 m and the average wind speed is 9 m/s. Lithuanians are hoping that first auctions will be organized in 2023, whereas the turbines will start generating power by 2030.
The port in Klaipeda wants to be the installation base. Wind Europe, a professional association, argues that investments in Lithuania’s infrastructure (and Latvia’s) are a huge challenge and that they should be completed around 2025. Klaipeda is already trying to attract investors using, among others, its good location for logistics purposes. In July 2020 the council for developing the haven presented solutions that would prepare the port for joining the offshore wind sector. The plans include researching the area and investments, as well as infrastructure necessary for achieving the goal.
Estonia is also looking at the sea
Estonia extracts bitumen shale, which ensures its almost complete energy independence. The challenge that the country is facing is reducing CO2 emissions. According to the “National Plan for Developing the Energy Sector by 2030”, which was adopted in 2017, Estonia wants to provide consumers with “reasonable” energy prices, ensure acceptable environmental conditions and competitiveness of the country’s economy. It also wants to produce 50 percent of its power from RES. At the same time, renewables are to participate in heat generation at 80 percent. The new renewable energy sources will be developed as part of the open market without state subsidies. Estonia is betting on wind energy, including offshore. The ministries of the economy and communication believe onshore energy is more economically beneficial, but in the long-term offshore wind is attractive as well. In June 2020 Taavi Aas, the Minister of Economy and Infrastructure, said that “offshore wind farms have an especially large potential for power generation.” “If we were to use all of our potential, we could produce three times as much energy,” the minister said. It seems that Tallinn is starting to relax its policy on developing offshore farms. It is worth reminding that Saare Wind Energy planned to build an offshore wind farm near the Island of Saaremaa, which would have 100 turbines, 6 MW each. However, the government refused to issue a permit on constructing this wind farm. because of concerns related to national security. It is possible this is about its impact on security systems. WindEurope has admitted that the farms can only be located in areas where the turbines will not disturb the work of military radars. Finland is facing similar challenges. Still, at the end of 2020 Saare Wind Energy signed a contract with Holland’s Van Oord, a company that constructs ships, which suggests Saare wants to continue the project.
Estonia is joining forces with Latvia The countries are talking about building a 1 GW wind complex Liivi lakt in the Gulf of Riga (Essti Energia is a developer). The plan has been confirmed by Timo Tatar, Deputy Secretary General for Energy. In September 2020 cross-border consultations are to take place on the development plan for Estonia’s sea area, which had been already prepared. If Estonia and Latvia were to cooperate, it would make it easier to cover the costs of building the installations and limit financial risk. Since 2009 Eesti Energia, a development company, has been verifying an investment about 10 km away from an Estonian island Kinhu, which in the future could cover half of Estonia’s energy demand. In this case, offshore capacity auctions would have to be organized together with the Latvians.
Offshore wind energy may engage the Baltics cooperation, strengthening local energy markets. The states have been suggesting this much. Timo Tatar suggested that the experience of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) could be copied by the Baltics to synchronize their policies on developing offshore wind farms. NSEC is a regional forum for energy cooperation in Western Europe, whose goal is to develop offshore wind on the North Sea. After a meeting with Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, Lituania’s Energy Minister, Poland’s Climate Minister, Michał Kurtyka announced Poland wanted to cooperate with other states on the Baltic coast as part of the Baltic Energy Interconnection Plan, a high-level working group, in order to better coordinate investments on the Baltic.
The cooperation in the region of the Baltic Sea will be imperative to the success of offshore wind energy, especially when it comes to transmission infrastructure. In order to fully use offshore’s potential it is necessary to conduct simultaneous investments in modernization and expansion of networks, storage systems and energy management. The cooperation will make it possible to reduce costs ensuring the stability of offshore projects. An efficient electricity network could unclog the exchange of electricity between states on the Baltic coastl For instance Amprion, a German operator of transmission networks, presented an idea to connect offshore wind farms with a power system, which could be applied across Europe. The system will make it possible to efficiently manage electricity and make make cross-border energy exchange more flexible.
The talks about developing the so-called mesh grid are becoming more frequent. Such a network, in case of large installed capacity at the sea, is the best way to get the energy to the land. However, offshore, high-voltage, direct current electric power transmission systems (HVDC) are still rare in Europe. Kriegers Flak will be first of many hybrid projects pursued on the Baltic Sea that will use this technology. The participants of the PROMOTION project financed by the European Union drafted the construction design for this kind of infrastructure. The project is on the North Sea, but it does not mean that a similar one could not be done on the Baltic.
It is also worth reminding that the process of synchronizing the power networks of the Baltic States with continental Europe’s by 2025 is still a challenge. According to a scenario adopted by the European Commission and the Baltics, it will be conducted with the usage of the existing LitPol Link (Poland-Lithuania) and a new sea HVDC cable from Poland’s Władysławowo to Klaipeda, called Harmony Link. The decision makers have ensured that the process was on schedule.
A chance for Poland
The development of offshore wind energy after a period of stagnation in the onshore wind energy business may help Poland to return to Europe’s wind energy map. Will Poland actually use this chance to open the market for Polish subcontractors? The Polish Wind Energy Association identified over 140 entities, which participate in the offshore wind supply chain in Poland. Opening the offshore wind markets in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia may significantly contribute to the expansion of local companies. Investors have also spotted this opportunity. “Poland could become a hub of sorts when it comes to installation or maintenance ports, which could provide services to projects that are developed in Lithuanian or Estonian waters,” Paweł Przybylski, head of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy in Poland, told BiznesAlert.pl.
Thanks to working together closely, the Baltics may achieve more in offshore wind than individually. Organized cooperation in the Baltic Sea region as an area that is one of the pillars of energy transition, may entail spacial planning of marine areas, development of on- and off-shore grids, creating financial frameworks and technical standards. It may also take place in the industry sector as well as hybrid offshore wind projects.