Why offshore wind power?

Why offshore wind power?

Offshore wind power production is growing globally. The growth is driven by several factors, such as the need to reduce climate impacts of the energy system and the use of fossil fuels and to increase energy self-sufficiency of countries. Electricity consumption also increases when transport, heating and industry rely more and more on electricity, for example, instead of combustion-based energy sources. At the same time, as a result of the technological development, decreasing costs and large electricity generation potential of offshore wind power, it is one of the means with the most potential to achieve the above-mentioned targets.

The wind is stronger at sea

Countries with sparse land areas for onshore wind power due to a high population density are under great pressure to build energy production in sea areas. However, offshore wind power is also planned in countries that still have plenty of space for onshore wind power and a low population density, such as in Finland and Sweden. The wind is stronger and more constant at sea than on land, and therefore an offshore wind turbine produces more electricity than an onshore one. Furthermore, it is possible to plan considerably larger wind farms offshore than onshore. Due to more efficient turbines and larger entities, the production of a major offshore wind farm can be compared to the production volumes of nuclear power plants. Although there is still plenty of room in Finland for onshore wind power, we also have fairly advanced offshore wind farms. There is a lot of specialist expertise in offshore construction in Finland, and an efficient domestic market also supports exporting of competence and components for the needs of the growing global market. It is also a good idea for Finland to have the readiness for future market-driven construction of offshore wind power as the development and construction of projects will take years.

Finland’s sea areas are quite shallow and the salinity of water is lower than in the North Sea. Waves are also lower than in the North Sea. In the Baltic Sea, winds are less strong than in the North Sea, but they are still stronger than in the onshore areas. The winter ice conditions are another differentiating factor from the majority of sea areas elsewhere in the world.

Metsähallitus is responsible for Finland’s territorial waters

Metsähallitus is mainly responsible for Finland’s territorial waters. Therefore, it is possible to develop an offshore wind power project in the Finnish territorial waters just by signing a lease agreement with Metsähallitus. In December 2021, the Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy confirmed the principles according to which Metsähallitus will arrange competitive tendering for operators in the sea areas. The first more extensive competitive tendering will probably take place in 2023 or 2024. The development of a project called Kvarken in Korsnäs deviates slightly from a more extensive competitive tendering process. In summer 2022, the Finnish Government granted Metsähallitus the authority to organise competitive tendering on Kvarken. The Finnish Government is responsible for the usufruct of the exclusive economic zone.

The offshore wind power projects planned in Finland have so far been located north of Pori (Projects on the map). Many factors have an impact on the selection of the location for offshore wind power projects. These include, e.g. the nature values of the area, water depth, distance to shore and to the nearest grid connection point, and the opinion of the Finnish Defence Forces on the wind power project. Due to the challenges in coordinating the operations of the Finnish Defence Forces and wind power, it is currently not possible to plan offshore wind power in the Gulf of Finland. Project development of an offshore wind power project

An offshore wind power project may be located in territorial waters or in Finland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In the territorial waters, licensing follows more or less the same format as in an onshore wind power project. In terms of territorial waters, an agreement on the use of the water areas must be drawn up with Metsähallitus. A zoning plan is also drawn up in the offshore areas, and the municipality is responsible for the planning in the same way as in land areas. Geotechnical surveys need a permit from the Defence Command of the Finnish Defence Forces. The cable lines of the Finnish Defence Forces must also be taken into account in an offshore wind power project. Unlike with onshore wind power, offshore wind power always also requires a permit under the Water Act, which is applied for separately with regard to every wind turbine designed for the wind farm.

It is advisable for the project developer to take into account that, despite the location, an offshore wind power project may require a procedure according to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, i.e. an assessment of environmental impacts across state borders. The procedure by virtue of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context is required in projects that have impacts across boundaries.