Finland - Cut in red tape and offshore plans lift dark mood

FINLAND: Finland is poised to almost double its installed capacity in 2012 after failing to add any last year.

Just 0.5% of the country's electricity consumption is currently generated by the country's 130 wind turbines, which have a combined capacity of 197MW.

"If you look at capacity, 2011 was a dark year, a real disaster, as we didn't add any," says Anni Mikkonen, executive director of the Finnish Wind Power Association. She is more optimistic about this year as a guaranteed 67MW capacity will be added, with forecasts suggesting capacity might increase by as much as 170MW.

Mikkonen's optimism for new projects this year is based on a number of recent regulatory and administrative changes that are expected to ease the burden for wind-energy developers. Advances in technology have helped alleviate fears that signals from wind turbines will interfere with military radar signals. The industry is hoping that this will help speed up the approval process for new wind farms.

Rules were relaxed last year on the type of information that has to be submitted with a proposal for a new wind farm were relaxed last year, resulting in a much simpler application process. It remains to be seen whether these developments will provide the impetus the industry needs.

The government has shown signs it is supportive of wind-energy development. The employment and economy ministry plans to subsidise one large offshore project and applications are expected this year. The wind industry expect this will boost interest in the offshore sector. Finland currently has only one 2.3MW offshore turbine but, according to Mikkonen, there are 12 large offshore projects in the pipeline.

The ministry has also appointed a dedicated expert, Lauri Tarasti, to investigate the challenges facing the country's wind industry. Mikkonen believes this should remove further bureaucratic obstacles, such as the road safety authority's regulation that wind turbines must be placed at least 500 metres from the road, which is a greater distance than in most countries.

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