As part of the conditions for its entry into the European Union, Lithuania must close Ignalina, its Chernobyl-era nuclear reactor. The staged shutdown of Ignalina leaves the Baltic nations even more eager for power substitutes to the flow of oil and gas from former ruler Russia. Wind seems an obvious solution. But all three countries suffer from a weak grid and institutional roadblocks to steady development. Currently the three governments seem more eager to take up new nuclear ambitions than support wind.
By the end of 2005, Lithuania had 6.4 MW of installed wind capacity from mostly single turbines in the windy western part of the country. The largest single wind plant is a 5.4 MW project of Vestas NM 900 kW turbines near Kretingale. Another 75 MW is in planning, the direct result of a series of tenders for government wind power concessions in four of Lithuania's six regional authorities. But these prospective projects, ranging in size from 6 MW to 30 MW, are somewhat speculative, says Aleksandras Paulauskas of the Lithuanian Wind Energy Association. The country has committed to 170 MW of wind by 2010, but apart from requesting proposals from local authorities, the government has offered no subsidies or support to developers. "It's not easy to win a tender competition, in fact it is very difficult," Paulauskas says. "And then many of those that have won can do nothing because of lack of financing."
Germany's Enercon is the chosen supplier behind a plan to build 30 MW on Lithuania's Baltic coast near the seaside resort of Palanga. But so far it has only been successful in buying permit rights for 15 MW. Enercon's project manager until recently, Peter Klessascheck, says the company has a contract with an unnamed private developer who has pledged to buy 15 Enercon 2 MW wind turbines. The development is set to cost an estimated EUR 39 million.
Klessascheck says Lithuania has good wind resources and the country is a hot prospect. "There's a sort of gold rush, but it's not a very nice market right now," Klessascheck says. "Speculators are out staking a claim to a site and thinking they can sell the claim for a ridiculous price two years later."
Companies that won a first round of wind project tenders from state-run utility Lietuvos Energija in 2004 have only 24 months to get projects up and running, with a possible six month extension if the project has actually broken ground. That is little time to figure out financing and grid connection and undertake construction, Klessascheck says. He believes many of the first wave of projects will fail.
Enercon already has one turbine up and running near Palanga in a joint project with local company Dalis Gero. Klessascheck says that in addition to the new 30 MW project, the company plans to partner with private investors on at least three more new but smaller developments in Lithuania. "It's a pretty hot market, but crazy with many greenhorns trying to make some quick money," he says.
As the brightest spot in the Baltics with some of the best wind resources in the area along its long stretch of Baltic Sea coastline, Estonia saw completion of two wind plant during the year, bringing total capacity to 32 MW, reports Jaan Tepp of the Estonian Wind Power Association. Norway's Vardar completed the 18.4 MW Pakri wind farm of eight Nordex 2.3 MW turbines and Estonian company OÜ Roheline Ring brought the Esviere 8 MW wind farm of Enercon 2 MW machines online.
A fixed tariff of EUR 0.051/kWh is paid for wind power through 2015. While that is a good incentive, the economy ministry has capped the volume of wind power it will buy at that rate at 200 GWh. Last year, Estonia's wind turbines delivered 37.5 GWh to the grid, a long way from the country's estimated potential of 9 TWh a year.
The threat of the cap with the dangling carrot of the fixed tariff means the race is on for developers to get planned projects online. Nearly 100 MW of new projects are on the drawing board, but it is Intercon's 22 MW Viru-Nigula wind farm that is most likely to break ground during 2006.
On the bright side, Tepp says environment minister Villu Reiljan's objection to the 200 GWh cap is an encouraging development. It may be scrapped altogether, or it could be raised to 300-400 GWh.
Latvia's outlook is even less positive. The 20 MW Grobina wind farm, built by private company Energy Builders at the end of 2002 using 33 Enercon 600 kW turbines, is still the only project of any size. An additional 4.7 MW of capacity is scattered around in single turbines. Adis Zviedris, a consultant for Latvia's Wind Energy Association, sees no change in the offing.
"There are no guarantees in this marketplace, no fixed prices provided for wind electricity, and at present, nothing is happening," Zviedris says. "I've seen how it happened in Germany, Spain, and Denmark. That could happen here, but not without government support."
Zviedris says his best hope is for EU pressure on the Baltic nations to further liberalise their markets and provide support for wind and renewables generation.