Environmental studies for the Utilitas Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm are in full swing

Utilitas Wind has signed contracts to carry out the environmental studies outlined in the decision to initiate the superficies license for the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm, and most of the studies are already ongoing.

“Considering the critical situation in the energy market, Utilitas Wind will do everything possible to ensure that the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm starts producing electricity as early as 2028. In order to meet the tight schedule, we already started the first environmental studies this spring, at the same time as the preparation of the environmental impact assessment program. We have also signed contracts to conduct all major environmental studies, most of which are already underway or in preparation,” explained Kristiina Nauts, Head of planning and environmental impact assessment at Utilitas Wind.

In May of this year, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) asked the relevant institutions for their opinion on the environmental impact assessment program (EIA) of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm. Based on the proposals, the program has been amended. At the beginning of August, Utilitas Wind sent the EIA program to the TTJA for public disclosure. According to the plans, the public exhibition and discussions of the program will take place as early as this fall.

“The demand for environmental experts and technology in marine areas is currently very high in Europe, and the ability of Estonian scientists to conduct studies on such a scale is limited. Therefore, it was important for the progress of the wind farm development to start the environmental studies as early as possible. If amendments to the program or additional studies are added in the course of public discussions, we can definitely change and supplement the plans, but at least we have already started with the studies. The studies carried out for the environmental impact assessment are of high quality, involving the best methodologies, technologies, and experts,” added Nauts.

The studies commissioned to assess the environmental impact of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm contribute millions of euros to Estonian science, and the work will be carried out by scientists from Estonian universities and leading field experts. The collected data will provide an opportunity to publish several scientific studies in the future, as Utilitas Wind has allowed researchers to freely use the data collected during the studies.

“The data collected through the studies is of great value. Currently, there is no pre-existing information about the species composition or distribution of seabed life in these sea areas. Each piece of information is a valuable addition to our database, providing a good opportunity to monitor and document changes in the marine environment in the future, and whether these are caused by a wind farm or, for example, climate change. We will use these data in the future, both in research and for the preparation of more general assessments on the condition of the environment,” said Georg Martin, Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Tartu.

As part of the environmental impact assessment of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm, the impact of the wind farm on the natural environment is studied, including birds, fish, marine mammals, bats, seabed life and seawater quality, hydrodynamics and waves, protected natural objects, and Natura2000 areas. In addition, the impact on cultural heritage and the socio-economic environment is assessed.

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-Liiv offshore wind farm at the end of 2021. Utilitas Wind’s goal is to receive the necessary permits for construction in 2025, so that by 2028, at the latest, the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm could be producing environmentally friendly electricity. 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 1200 MW and expected annual electricity production exceeding 5 TWh.