Industry lobbies for Finnish offshore subsidy

FINLAND: The developers of Finland's first permitted offshore wind farm are lobbying the government for a pilot investment subsidy specific to offshore wind.

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The industry fears that the country's proposed feed-in-tariff (FIT) will not be enough to stimulate the country's fledgling offshore sector.

WPD Finland, a subsidiary of global wind developer WPD, received authorisation for the Suurhiekka offshore wind farm from Northern Finland's regional state administrative agency at the end of February. The permit includes environmental considerations, although the project still needs technical approval before construction can begin.

The 80-turbine wind farm will produce 1,500GWh a year and will be located about 25 kilometres from the coast in the Gulf of Bothnia in the northern arm of the Baltic Sea. The project will involve construction of a 15-kilometre 400kV overhead line to connect it to the Finnish national grid - as well as subsea cables.

With the project's start date approaching, questions about a financial support mechanism for offshore wind generation need to be resolved. Heli Rissanen, deputy managing director of WPD Finland, says a debate on a remuneration model for offshore wind is needed in order for the project to proceed.

A FIT for wind energy is due to be introduced by the Finnish government later this spring once it is approved by the European Commission. The proposed scheme will pay EUR0.0084/kWh for 12 years plus an "early-bird" bonus of EUR0.0105/kWh for quick builders until 2015.

"The proposed FIT is not suitable for offshore wind schemes. We do not think the Finnish government has studied this sufficiently," Rissanen says. She adds that the offshore sector in Finland wants to see a one-off investment subsidy for at least one large-scale offshore project in the short term to kick-start the industry. It then wants a FIT-based subsidy specific to offshore in the longer term. "If the new government really actuates and starts these studies, it will still take some years before an offshore-specific system will be at hand," she says.

Suurhiekka is the most advanced large-scale offshore project in the country so would make a good case study for the pilot, she adds.

The government admitted the FIT would not be sufficient for offshore wind at the time of the announcement and said an offshore-specific system would need to be looked at in more detail during the next government - although this will depend on the outcome of this month's general election.

The Suurhiekka scheme is expected to take three years to build as it is sited in shallow water and may require specialist shipping support. But WPD says that even if its bid for a support mechanism fails it will still keep developing and planning Suurhiekka, as well as other offshore projects.

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