The first Finnish offshore wind event focuses on challenges and solutions

The first offshore wind event ever held in Finland – Wind Finland Goes Offshore – was full of information on regulatory and geographical challenges facing offshore wind, but also presented ways to tackle them.

The Wind Finland Goes Offshore event was organized by the Finnish Wind Power Association on May 11th, 2022. The event attracted several offshore wind project developers and provided information on the regulatory developments in the Finnish offshore wind scene.

The event was opened by Toni Sulameri from Suomen Hyötytuuli, the company operating the first offshore wind farm in Finland. According to Sulameri, the following challenges need to be solved in order to accelerate offshore wind development in Finland: reduction of property taxes, accelerated permit and appeal processes, and a lower cost level of produced electricity and undeveloped value chain. Finland also needs more sites for development.

Anni Mikkonen and Heidi Paalatie from the Finnish Wind Power Association referred to the national climate and energy strategy draft which does not give any ambitious targets for offshore wind. However, the pipeline for offshore wind is currently 10 000 MW, based on public information, and it continues to grow. The potential provided by e.g. the long coast line is huge and not to be wasted. Of course, there are also some challenges such as security requirements from the military and challenges caused by ice.

The stage was taken again by Mr. Sulameri with his colleague Jaakko Kleemola, who shared their views on the growing offshore wind business. The cost level of offshore wind depends largely on geographical location –– wind conditions, sea bottom, water depth, grid connection costs, distance to shore and regulatory environment –– as well as on the investment strategy. Whether the developer chooses a turnkey or multiple contracts also makes a difference. Some of the technical risks mentioned were risks coming from the sea bottom and the interaction with the offshore foundation, difficult wind conditions, since they cause risk in the construction and operation phase, and conditions caused by the cold climate, ice in particular.

Mr. Pekka Pokela, on behalf of the Team Renewable Arctic Finland ecosystem, gave a presentation on Finnish offshore wind expertise. The ecosystem has been developing the position and the knowhow of the Finnish value chain in the offshore wind market. Finnish expertise already covers the entire offshore wind value chain and cost-efficient concepts are being developed. Great focus has been given to develop offshore foundation solutions to withstand the loads caused by the moving and packed ice. The work to develop Finnish offshore expertise will continue.

Slow but steady development in politics

Outi Vilén from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment shared the challenges related to the development of offshore wind in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Permits can currently be given to multiple applicants regardless of the level of the studies carried out. The ministries are in the process of assessing the need to develop procedures and legislation from the offshore wind perspective. Finland does not have any fixed targets for offshore wind because, according to the ministry, the selection of energy sources should be market-based.

Tuomas Hallenberg from Metsähallitus, the government authority in charge of leasing public water areas, presented the auction model developed for Finnish public water areas. There are currently eight projects in the pipeline in the regional waters, and eight projects in the EEZ zone. The next one to four sites will be auctioned during 2024.

Matilda Machacek presented RWE Renewables and their plans in Sweden. RWE has currently six offshore wind projects under development in Sweden. Their flagship project is the Södra Midsjöbanken in southern Sweden of 1,6 GW. Also in Sweden, work is underway to speed up the permitting process. There is currently a huge amount of interest in the Swedish market and there are 125 GW worth of applications for grid access in Sweden. Swedish TSO will take the grid offshore, more light will be shed on this during 2022. Also, the Swedish Maritime Spatial Plan will be updated by 2024 to meet the growing market needs.

Peter Tornberg from the Swedish company OX2 shared his views on offshore wind in the current geopolitical context, where both military security and energy security play a significant role. Green electricity will also attract industry to establish or stay in Finland enabling more secure supply chains.

The permitting process was discussed in a panel discussion. It would be essential for offshore wind projects to get a VIP ticket to pass the queues in the several permitting processes faster. Locality is also important from the perspective of stakeholder commitment –– the offshore wind companies should be humble when entering local communities and be present in the municipalities involved for the entire lifecycle of the windfarm.

Great engineering expertise

Jari Haapala from the Finnish Meteorological Institute gave a presentation focusing on the great variation in ice cover and ice thickness in different winters. Thomas Hawn Jensen from Green Power Denmark presented the pros of energy islands such as the connection to more electricity price zones through an energy island to make electricity market more flexible. Challenges come e.g. from regulatory environment and potentially from technology when individually working units are combined in a system. Coexistence of different marine production sectors (e.g. P2X, sea weed) is also an important aspect when integrating different operations in an energy island.

The last speaker was Ted Bergman from Elomatic. Elomatic has designed floatable and floating offshore structures such as a floatable offshore wind foundation where the turbine will be installed on dry dock and towed to the installation site.