Environmental studies fieldwork for the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm will be completed this year

As part of the environmental impact assessment for the Utilitas Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm, the studies are entering their second year and are in full swing. All fieldwork required in the EIA program will be completed by the beginning of November. 

“Even in winter, offshore wind farms produce significantly more energy than land-based wind or hybrid farms of the same capacity and, thereby, significantly reduce the need to use expensive and environmentally polluting fossil fuels. By now, it is clear that offshore wind farms are indispensable if we want to maintain the security of supply and meet the national goal to cover Estonia’s electricity consumption with electricity produced from renewable sources by 2030,” said Utilitas Wind Board Member Rene Tammist.

Utilitas Wind has been developing the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm since 2021 and has quickly moved forward in order to remain competitive and to start producing electricity in the wind farm as early as 2028.

Comprehensive environmental studies are carried out in the area of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm according to an internationally recognized methodology, and Estonian and international experts are involved. Bird and fish studies have been carried out for two consecutive years. As well as studies on the impacts on marine mammals, bats, seabed life and seawater quality, currents, and waves, and protected natural objects. Natura2000 areas are also assessed. The impact on cultural heritage and the socio-economic environment is also studied.

“As the initiator of the environmental impact study, we trust the experience of the involved experts and are also applying several new research methods. For example, the birds nesting on the islets near Kihnu island are monitored with GPS devices that, to the ornithologists’ knowledge, has not previously been carried out anywhere in the world during an environmental impact assessment of an offshore wind farm. To study seals, several underwater sound recording devices have been anchored in the Gulf of Riga, which help to monitor and assess the movement of seals in the area of the wind farm,” explained Kristiina Nauts, Head of planning and environmental impacts in Utilitas Wind.

It became clear from the results of the research carried out last year that wind turbines cannot be planned in the southern part of the original development area, specifically due to the bird population. Therefore, Utilitas Wind used the opportunity provided by law and requested a partial shift of the development area to the west. This year the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) approved the request. The size of the development remained the same, 300 km2.

“Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels has a negative impact on birds, animals, and people. Therefore, the establishment of green electricity production capacities is actually a common interest of all of us. We take the studies very seriously, gather in-depth knowledge of the entire biome of the region, and constantly adjust our plans,” added Nauts.

Several different additional studies are also being carried out to collect geological and technical data, which are necessary for working out the technical solutions for the construction of offshore wind farms. For example, Utilitas requested that Fugro, the world’s leading company engaged in the collection and analysis of geodata, install a LiDAR Buoy in the area of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm that measures the height and direction of wind, waves, and currents, as well as water temperature. The speed and direction of drifting ice are also measured with a device located on the seabed.

The areas suitable for offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Riga were defined by the county plan established in 2017 for the marine area bordering Pärnu County. TTJA initiated the building permit procedure for Utilitas Wind’s Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm at the end of 2021, and a year later the EIA program was recognized as meeting the requirements of TTJA. Utilitas Wind is continuing with planning and design activities at a pace that could allow the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm to produce environmentally friendly electricity by 2028, at the latest. In the first stage of the development, according to the technical conditions issued by the grid company, approximately 80 wind turbines are planned to be built, with a total capacity of 1,200 MW and expected annual electricity production exceeding 5 TWh.

Bird surveys were carried out by the Estonian Ornithological Society and Workboats Consulting