Wind power project to face substantial obstacles

  • 2009-12-02
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA - JK Energy has announced plans to construct a 900-megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm near Liepaja, in south-eastern Latvia, reports news agency LETA. Representatives from the company have confirmed that the wind farm would be located to the north of the Port of Liepaja and would be able to generate up to 900 MW once under full power. This would place it as the largest wind farm in the Baltic sea.

The electric energy produced by the wind farm would not be sold on the Latvian market, nor in any other Baltic country, but would instead be offered to countries in Central and Western Europe. The company has refused to mention any prospective investors in the project.
It has been estimated that such a large wind farm would require investment worth several billion lats, considering that the building of one facility in the sea, capable of generating one megawatt, now costs around 1.4 million euros, according to estimates by the Wind Energy Association of Latvia.

JK Energy director Juris Kajaks was also involved in construction of Latvia’s largest onshore wind farm in Grobina, outside of Liepaja. The later wind farm owners were for a long time affiliated with the family business of the People’s Party founder and so-called businessman Andris Skele.
“Seeing what people are involved in the project and knowing who are planning to return to the political elite in Latvia, I will not be surprised if the project is indeed brought to life,” says  director of FCM Aivars Upenieks. FCM is actively involved in wind energy projects.

Upenieks says, however, that the necessary investment in such a project is substantial, and remains a potential obstacle to realization.
Latvia indeed has a very good potential for wind energy development. The total installed wind energy capacity currently serving the country in June 2009 was about 24.5 MW. A majority of the capacity is installed at the 19.8 MW park at Grobina. The park uses 33 Enercon E-40 turbines, which were installed in 2003 and produce about 40 GWh of electricity per year. There is room for more development in the district.

According to data from the EBRD Renewable Energy Program, the technical potential for wind energy production in Latvia has been estimated to be around 1,277 GWh/year, however, the practical potential is estimated at 1,000 GWh/year, which represents about 2,000 MW of wind technical, or economic potential.
The regions with the largest wind speeds are along the coast of the Baltic sea and the eastern coast of Riga bay, in its northern part near the Estonian border. Wind speeds in these areas reach 5.1 - 5.8 m/sec. The width of the Baltic sea zone is about 15 - 20 km, and the Riga bay zone is approximately 10 - 15 km wide.

“One can plan on constructing such a wind farm, but it would be impossible to build in the near future due to lack of clarity regarding ownership rights in the Baltic sea. Currently the state is the owner of the territory, and the Finance Ministry administrates this territory. Potential investors need territorial planning and wind velocity measurements, which are carried out over a long period of time, which makes implementation of wind energy projects difficult,” says chief of the Wind Energy Association of Latvia Paulis Barons.

He added that 900 MW is an amount of wind energy that the Latvian power network could absorb.