Baltic nations more bust than boom -- Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia

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Replacement of nuclear capacity, not expansion of renewables, was the energy topic of the year for the three Baltic Sea states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Lithuania has decided to shut its troubled Ignalina nuclear facility next year and the intention is to replace it with more nuclear capacity. Big neighbour Poland is pushing for that solution and demanding a share of the output. The Baltic countries are also busy sloughing off their Soviet energy past and forging better connections with the European network. Just last month, Lithuania and Sweden agreed on a new power link between the countries and Poland and Latvia announced a link to each other too.

Estonia was the region's only truly active wind market in 2007. A mini wind boom was unleashed when the government increased the guaranteed purchase price for 2007 from EUR 0.051/kWh to EUR 0.074/kWh. Though new installations amounted to just 26 MW of turbines supplied by Finland's Winwind, bringing the Estonian total to 58 MW, nearly 400 MW is now in development and an additional 2700 MW proposed, with even an offshore project being aired.

Faced with a rapidly heating market, however, Estonian utility Eesti Energi cooled things down by overhauling its grid connection rules. In May, tougher requirements went into effect with a load balancing clause that, according to Andrus Zavadskis at Estonian wind developer Nelja Energia, has taken the heat out of the wind rush.

Nelja is fighting a separate battle with Eesti Energi, which threw the company's Viru Nigula plant (co-owned with Denmark's Vardar Eurus) off the grid last month, saying that required data on grid fault ride-through was not being generated by the turbines. Zavadskis says it is a "childhood problem" that Winwind is working on. But of the 26 MW that made it online in Estonia in 2007, only just over 2 MW is currently supplying electricity to the grid.

Even if the situation is a bust right now, the Estonian Wind Energy Association is anticipating 2008 to end with at least a small bang. Nelja's 14 MW Sudenai and 6.9 MW Virtsu II projects should be online, using Enercon turbines, while the 24 MW Tooma plant and the 9 MW Vanakula plant will be well under way.

Five in Lithuania

Lithuania saw five new turbines (2.75 MW) during 2007 to bring the national total to 52.3 MW from 36 turbines. They produced just under 12 GWh during the year according to the Lithuanian Wind Energy Association (LWEA). The 52.3 MW is a reduction in cumulative capacity. Six NEG Micon turbines (5.4 MW) making up Lithuania's first wind farm were decommissioned at Peskojal to placate nearby residents. They were shipped to Poland.

Lithuania estimates it needs to build 200 MW of wind plant on land if it is to grow its renewables generation by the 7% demanded of it by upcoming EU law. In 2003, the country map was divided into six quadrants and each quadrant was allocated a goal of between 20 MW and 45 MW of new wind plant. Bids to supply the capacity were invited by monopoly utility Lietuvos Energija. So far only the north-western third quadrant, where the country's largest wind plant, the 30 MW Veju Spektras development, is up and running, is even close to its goal, set at 45 MW.

LWEA's Aleksander Paulauskas is confident all 200 MW will be online by the end of 2010. "People are not against wind energy here, it is just quite new to them. Land prices have gone up astronomically and there are some worries that wind turbines might depress owners' selling price, but overall each year we see greater public acceptance."

Paulauskas says the guaranteed purchase price for wind generation is LTL 0.22/kWh (EUR 0.064/kWh), valid until 2020, which provides for a payback time on capital investment of eight to 12 years. "It's enough," he says. "Just enough." Late last month the government was to rule on a proposal to raise the price to LTL 0.30/kWh (EUR 0.087/kWh).

Little Latvia

No wind turbines went up in Latvia last year, the smallest of the three countries. Its 27 MW of wind power to date is made of one 33 turbine facility, Veja Parks, and eight single turbines scattered around the country. "Outwardly it is true that nothing happens," says Paulis Barons of the Latvian Association of Wind Energy. "But there are considerable changes going on in the legislative field."

The government, says Barons, is preparing a request for proposals for 135 MW of new wind capacity, representing one quarter of the 550 MW potential in Latvia, mainly along the wind-rich coastline. But it also recognises that a fixed power purchase price, or some form of guaranteed price, is needed, he says.

Wind and bioenergy are likely candidates to help the country reach its goal of 49.3% renewables generation by 2010. But entrenched power monopoly Lautenberg is no fan of renewables. While concluding that 400 MW of new capacity is needed, it says wind will cause too many system problems to be a viable option. Meantime, just one turbine may come online in Latvia this year, a Dewind 2 MW turbine that Sia Lenkas Energo has commissioned for erection near the city of Liepaja.

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