There are 70 offshore turbines in operation with a total capacity of 160MW. Another 287 offshore wind turbines, with a total capacity of 1.4GW, have been given permits, but project developers are waiting for the introduction of offshore tariffs before they begin construction.
Since it is much more difficult to obtain building permits onshore, and even more difficult to get permits to upgrade the grid, there are far fewer projects for which consent has been given to build onshore than offshore.
Sweden's opposition party is in favour of building offshore, so the fate of the offshore tariffs depends on the results of the elections, which will be held in September this year. Matthias Rapp, of the industry organisation Swedish Wind Energy, believes that the chances of offshore tariffs being implemented are about 50% if the opposition is successful in the election. Although many permits have been granted already, Rapp says it is likely to be five years before most projects actually begin construction.
Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter last year, the 30MW Gasslingegrund wind project was completed. This is the first offshore wind farm constructed in Sweden since the 110MW Lillgrund project in 2007. Gasslingegrund is located on Lake Vanern in south-central Sweden and consists of ten 3MW WinWind turbines. According to Rapp, Gasslingegrund has been an extremely successful project. It was well managed, receives good winds and was also able to receive extra financing from the Swedish Energy Agency. The agency contributes SEK 70 million (EUR7 million) a year until 2012 towards establishing large-scale wind projects which are novel and which contribute towards the development of new methods for building wind farms.
Last year it was proposed that the guaranteed power purchase price of wind power in Finland would be EUR83.5/MWh at the beginning of 2010, but this guarantee was later postponed to the beginning of 2011 and, as a consequence, Finland failed to step into the water.
In September 2009 a working group chaired by an industrial counsellor from Finland's ministry of employment and economy proposed EUR90.2/MWh for wind power projects that begin development in the next two or three years. Pasi Tammivaara from the Finnish Wind Power Association says this is designed as an early-bird bonus to get things moving.
Finland aims to have 6TWh per year of its production coming from wind energy by 2020, equivalent to 2.4GW in installed capacity. The working group's report also said that in order to reach the 6TWh target by 2020, 400MW must be installed offshore. It added that, in order for this to happen, the price of the tariffs would have to be increased to a much higher level than the proposed EUR83.5/MWh. However, no proposal was made for such an increase.
It seems unlikely then that any of the 5.8GW of Finnish offshore projects under development will be constructed before an offshore tariff system is in place. However, Anni Mikkonen from the Finnish Wind Power Association is optimistic. "I am sure that politicians will understand that we also need offshore wind to reach the target," she says.
Hydropower is the dominant energy type in Norway and, although it does have some wind, none of that wind is sited offshore, save for a single 2.3MW prototype floating turbine. Norway and Sweden plan to launch a common market-based support system for renewable energy by 2012, which will be an improvement on investment grants that are currently offered in Norway. This has encouraged companies such as Troms Kraft to announce their intention to develop a 250-turbine wind farm offshore. Yet it remains doubtful as to whether the system will make offshore projects such as the Troms Kraft plan viable at current cost levels.
A long-awaited offshore framework was recently announced in Estonia. Before that, permits were given to applications on a case-by-case basis. Now, the applications for offshore constructions are covered by a general law, making it easier for offshore wind farms to be built.
Estonia's energy supply development plan calls for 400MW onshore and 500MW offshore by 2020. But Hannes Agabus, development manager for local developer 4Energia, says that if the Estonian targets are to be reached, more effort will have to be made to support wind power.