Waking up to wind energy -- Finnish boom possible

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Finland's traditional position as the sleepy hollow of the Nordic wind power industry may be about to change should the state funded technical research organisation VTT succeed in persuading government to support a determined new drive to build 15 to 20 wind farms at coastal locations around Finland. Meantime last year saw the completion of five wind projects with a total capacity of 22 MW, mostly as sporadic single developments by small power companies. Nonetheless the 22 MW was a 10% increase on new capacity in 2000. Applications for projects seeking planning approval in 2001 amounted to 26 MW, a 15.5% increase. The government's aim is to have 500 MW in place by 2010.

VTT's vision includes the construction of a fifth nuclear power plant and the beefing up of investments in renewable energy so that by 2015 about 25% of all electricity generation in Finland will be derived from wind, solar, biofuel, and biomass. Of this, wind will represent 10-15%. According to VTT, Finland must allocate more resources to renewable energy if it wishes to achieve targets set by the Kyoto agreement.

Peak power electricity consumption in Finland has grown by 10,000 MW since 1970. The average annual growth rate has been more than 300 MW. "This growth will continue in the future. There is a definite gap in the marketplace for more wind power generation," says Juhani Santaholma, head of industry association Finergy. It estimates that Finland will need 3400 MW of new generation by 2015.

"If a new nuclear power plant is built, it will not be in use before 2008. The electricity shortfall will be met by wind power projects, CHP plants, natural gas, biomass and peat. Wind power capacity will be added as much as government support allows and as much as investors are prepared to pay for," says Santaholma.

Electricity capacity in Finland grew by 3% in 2001, to 8100 MW. Of this, wind power accounted for only 0.1%. For VTT to achieve its 2015 target, Finland will need to add in excess of 100 MW of new wind power to the national grid each year over the next 14 years. VTT is calling for wind farms in offshore locations along the Helsinki and southern Finnish coastline from Porvoo to Kotka. Wind speeds there average a good 7.5-8 m/s, according to VTT research.

Jouni Kilpinen, a senior engineer with Helsinki city's planning department, is heading a team investigating the feasibility of wind plant development in the Helsinki region. "According to our research, wind powered plants could be built in four to five areas off the Helsinki shoreline," he says. The size of each plant would range from 210 MW to 240 MW. Helsinki needed 1200 MW in total in 2001.

Helsinki waters

The city government wants to link-up with its part owned utility, Helsingin Energia, to front a wind farm construction plan. According to VTT, the largest wind farms could comprise 20 turbines, each of 3 MW. The smaller offshore wind farms could have 15 turbines with a similar capacity. Helsinki will decide at the end of 2002 if the areas proposed for wind power should be included in the city's development plan.

The capital's wind plan hinges on generous support from the government since electricity prices are too low to make wind viable. Factors influencing the future price of electricity in Finland include whether or not the Finnish parliament, Eduskunta, authorises the construction of a fifth nuclear reactor.

Underlying the expectation of a more dynamic Finnish wind power sector, the metals and engineering group Rautaruukki has joined forces with ABB Power Oy, the Finnish subsidiary of the Swiss-Swedish group, to look at building a wind farm in Raahe, north west Finland. The project envisages five to seven wind turbines with a generating capacity of 8-12 MW. In November, ABB confirmed it was looking at proposals to erect 17 turbines on Harvungon island in Korsnas. The company is "talking with partners" at present, while community groups are organising to block planning approval. The company is not expected to lodge a formal planning application until mid-2002.

Of planning applications presented, a proposal by energy group Pohjolan Voima Oy (PVO) to build Finland's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Kokkola has caught the national interest. If completed, PVO will build 70 to 100 turbines with a projected capacity of 350 MW. But it has no plans to start construction before 2010. In contrast, Suomen Hyotytuuli Oy has won approval to double the capacity at its Tahkoluoto wind plant, near Pori, by installing a new 2 MW turbine which will come on-line in July.

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