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UPDATE - Eolus Vind's 51-turbine wind project in Latvia facing local challenges

Author: Comrade King.

March 13 (Renewables Now) - Swedish firm Eolus Vind AB has announced plans to build a 51-turbine wind park in Latvia but it is facing tough scrutiny from local authorities. An insider told Renewables Now on the condition of anonymity that the company may fail to meet the high environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements, mainly because of the technology it plans to use.

“For example, the range of tip heights they proposed was 240 metres, when the authorities want them smaller,” he said.

Kristaps Stepanovs, a Latvian energy expert, told Renewables Now that the Swedes appear not to have “all the answers” to the questions raised by the public and Latvia’s State Environmental Service (LSES), which is in charge of issuing EIAs, not only when it comes to the technological side of the EUR-250-million (USD 290.9 million) project, but also on issues related to the landscape and the location.

Neither LSES nor Eolus Vind AB responded to queries by Renewables Now.

Eolus Vind has been facing difficulties with the project from the beginning as residents of the Tukums and Dobele regions were clamouring against it. Locals fear that such a large wind farm would have a negative effect on the quality of their lives.

According to media reports, Eolus Vind was counting on receiving subsidies for the project, but Evita Urpena, head of Communications at the Latvian Ministry of Economics, denied that, saying that the company did not ask for direct state aid.

“Since 2011 no new rights have been granted to electricity producers in the framework of the Mandatory Procurement Mechanism through feed-in tariffs, therefore there was no ground for requesting direct state aid,” she told Renewables Now.

She said that the ministry welcomed the plan to develop the particular project, considering its intended capacity and expected contribution to renewable electricity production in Latvia.

“From what I heard the company has not completely abandoned the bid,” Urpena noted.

The wind park would be the largest of the kind in Latvia. According to previous announcements, the start of construction was planned for late 2018 or early 2019, while completion was foreseen for 2022. The proposed wind farm’s output is estimated to be around 0.7 TWh or as much as is needed to meet roughly 10% of Latvia’s total power consumption.

Eolus Vind is one of the largest wind park developers in the Nordic Countries. The company was established in 1990 and has so far built more than 540 out of the 3,400 wind turbines in Sweden.

Stepanovs, who is also a member of the Board of the Latvian Wind Energy Association, said there are several new wind projects underway in Latvia, all currently in the stage of (project) assessment. According to him, foreign companies invested in Latvia’s wind sector a mere EUR 300,000 in the last eight years.

“All they did here can be written on a single sheet. The bulk of the money went for salaries for the companies’ management, but no concrete projects have been produced,” he accentuated.

“Latvia has high wind potential and great landscape to pursue wind projects, but I am sure there will be no subsidies for wind energy in the near future, which demotivates many potential investors,” Stepanovs added.

Currently, the Latvian ministry is developing the National Energy and Climate Plan until 2030, which will be finalised by the end of 2019.

“In accordance with the current draft, the RES share will constitute 45% in Latvia’s final energy consumption in 2030. One of our main objectives is to ensure that RES projects are developed in a cost-efficient way,” Urpena underlined.

Latvia depends mostly on its hydropower capacity, which meets around 70% of the country’s electricity demand.

“Thanks to the large hydropower plants on river Daugava, hydropower will maintain a significant share in RES electricity production in Latvia. At the same time, considerable wind power capacity additions are expected in the foreseeable future so a gradual shift to non-hydro RES electricity production will be taking place in the next decade,” Urpena added.

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Linas Jegelevicius is editor-in-chief of The Baltic Times newspaper, author of three books and an active freelance journalist. Apart from the domestic market, he is also following the energy developments in all Baltic states and Russia.

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