The Finnish government has granted research permits for developers to carry out studies at potential offshore wind development sites, but may need to make rule changes before it can select which company will develop a contested site.
It has awarded one permit to German developer Wpd and two to Nordic firm OX2, amid a spike in interest in the country’s nascent offshore wind sector.
Both companies will now carry out geophysical and geotechnical studies for their respective projects this year and next.
However, each company is interested in the same 450km2 site west of Jakobstad in west-central Finland – presenting a challenge for the government, which currently has no legislative means for picking between the developers. OX2 is also due to carry out studies for a 570km2 site west of Hailuoto in the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia.
Before construction can start on either project, the government must carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and a study into the project’s transboundary impacts. Developers must also secure a permit giving them the rights to build in their chosen area.
Until now, the permit process for using Finland’s exclusive economic zone has mainly concerned infrastructure projects, and legislation does not adequately consider the special characteristics of offshore wind development, the economic affairs ministry stated. For example, legislation does not provide solutions for a situation where more than one operator is interested in the same sea area
The government may need to create new legislation to select a developer for the area, Kari Klemm, a senior adviser in the ministry, told Windpower Monthly.
Klemm added there have been other early-stage inquiries about offshore wind development in Finland’s exclusive economic zone.
This includes from OX2, which has submitted a third application for a research permit for an area south of the area west of Jakobstad. However, the government has requested more information from other authorities before it decides whether to award a research permit.
The government plans to assess how best to create procedures and legislation concerning the use of the exclusive economic zone for offshore wind development, it stated.
Offshore wind is currently not profitable on market terms in Finnish sea areas, the ministry added. This may be partly because developers have to pay grid-connection costs in Finland..
However, Finnish offshore wind may become more cost-competitive in the coming years due to technological advancements and lower costs, the ministry added.