Wind energy companies battle doubts and fears
Strict regulations could make Finland fall behind wind power targets
By Tapio Mainio
The smell of glue permeates in the big assembly hall of the Nautor boat building yard in Pietarsaari on Finland’s west coast.
Thomas Sundström and Viktor Hummel are laminating a 57-metre long half of a blade which is to be part of the rotor on a wind power generator.
It is to be attached to the other half, weighing a total of 16 tons.
The blade is to be attached to the hub of the windmill situated at a height of more than 100 metres in Öjen in the city of Vaasa. That is where Wasa Wind is building the first heavy-duty wind power plant of the Vaasa region at a location set up by EPV Wind Power and Merevento Oy.
The aim is to have the power station running this year.
“With its three blades, the rotor will have a coverage area the size of more than three football pitches. The new installations are about 40 per cent more efficient than the older models”, says Frans Liski, CEO of EPV Tuulivoima.
The Öjen plant will also be something that Mervento, which was set up in Vaasa to build wind power plants can display to others. The manufacture of the rotors is subcontracted out to NCE in Pietarsaari, which has rented the Nautor assembly hall.
Finland already has one other wind power manufacturer – Winwind Oy.
“The construction of wind power plants could become a significant field of industry”, says director Håkan Sundelin of NCE.
Before that there is a need to overcome the suspicion and fear that Finns feel about large wind power plants.
“In Öjen in Vaasa we want to show people that a large power plant is quiet”, Frans Liski says.
Environment Ministry Chief of Staff Hannele Pokka says that she is surprised at the large number of appeals submitted against wind power projects in Finland.
“The power plants are like lepers. Nobody wants to have them near”, she says.
The trepidation has also spread to Finnish civil servants, says Anni Mikkonen, executive director of the Finnish Wind Power Association.
She says that officials have put up various impediments, restrictions, and requests for comment. Power plants need to be further away from roads and railways, high towers are said to cause problems for air traffic, the function of radars, and so on.
“Zero tolerance is the starting point. For instance, the aviation authorities say that no wind power plants higher than 30 metres can be built between Helsinki and Loviisa”, says Jari Suominen, CEO of Tuuliwat.
Anni Mikkonen says that the tighter regulations have put a stop to the construction of wind power plants.
“This year twelve new wind generators were supposed to be built, but their number will now be fewer than ten, whereas last year 17 power plants were built”, she laments.
Finland will automatically fall behind the goal set by the government for wind power, admits Anja Liukko, a high-ranking official at the ministry of Employment and the Economy.
Wind power is supposed to account for six per cent of all electricity that is used by 2020. That would require 2,500 megawatts of capacity, and between 800 and 1,000 wind generators.
“To meet the goal we would need to put up two wind generators every week”, Frans Liski calculates. Now there are 130 generators with an output of 197 megawatts, which is 0.3 per cent of all electricity consumption.
The latest brake that was put on construction was the ministry’s decision to cancel direct electricity production subsidies as of the beginning of next year.
The wind power business was shocked to hear the news. One generator has been entitled to a subsidy of about EUR 50,000 a year, and it applied to nearly all of the older ones.
“You can’t trust politicians’ decisions”, says Lauri Puopajärvi, director of the wind power activities of the Pohjolan Voima power company.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 31.10.2011
Previously in HS International Edition:
Kemijärvi wind power project pits energy interests against tourism (11.10.2011)
Turun Sanomat: Land-based wind turbines profitable within five years (18.10.2010)
Åland in dispute with mainland over wind power subsidies (16.9.2010)
Energy companies put forward ambitious offshore wind power plans (18.6.2008)
Metsähallitus plans to charge owners of wind generators rent for using public land (15.5.2008)
Searching for new locations for wind power (29.4.2008)
TAPIO MAINIO / Helsingin Sanomat