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Searching for new locations for wind power; Inland areas included in new survey

New locations are being examined for the possible construction of windmills to generate electricity.

The aim of a report by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy is to find locations in Finland that would be suitable for wind energy in areas that have not previously been surveyed with wind power in mind.

These locations include inland areas which are near the coast. “It is fairly certain that new places will be found”, notes renewable energy expert Åsa Nystedt, from Motiva, which is coordinating the effort.

The aim of the new survey is to get so much detailed information on the conditions of the various areas, that no further separate studies would be necessary for setting up a wind power plant. This would speed up planning and implementation of wind power projects.

The most recent survey of areas suitable for the exploitation of wind energy dates back to the 1990s. Nystedt says that the report produced at that time does not meet the needs of today.

The survey was conducted only in coastal areas, and the measurements were not good enough.

Because of inaccuracies, the location of each planned wind power station has to be reassessed separately, with respect to wind conditions and use of land.

The new survey is expected to be ready next year.

Locations suitable for wind power will be examined on a broader basis in other respects as well. Until now regional land use plans have had to report those areas on the coasts and at high elevations on the fells of Finnish Lapland which would be are appropriate for wind energy.

“Now the requirement to report areas suitable for wind energy is to be expanded to the whole country”, says regional planning expert Ulla Koski of the Ministry of the Environment.

The changes are linked with an ongoing nationwide survey of the national goals for use of different areas.

Decisions on the use of renewable forms of energy are to be decided in the Finnish government’s climate and energy strategy, which will largely determine how well Finland manages to achieve its EU emission targets.

Decision-makers have the support of the people behind them; a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat in February showed that 92% of the people are in favour of increasing the use of wind energy.

The government’s climate policy advisor, Green League MP Oras Tynkkynen, says that feed-in tariffs favouring renewable energy sources are getting considerable political support.

“Even the National Coalition Party is ready to consider various models”, Tynkkynen notes.

The feed-in tariff is the guaranteed price intended as a way to guide the electricity market.

The government’s strategy is likely to be debated by Parliament’s Commerce Committee, which is deciding already this week if the feed-in tariffs are among the key issues to be cleared up.

“This will be a subheadline at the very least”, predicts the committee’s chairman Jouko Skinnari (SDP).

At the Ministry of Finance, Secretary of State Veli-Pekka Nummikoski emphasises that it will first be necessary to evaluate the total amount of electricity to be produced by 2020, and after that, to delve more deeply into how the required proportions of renewable sources are to be achieved.

Supporters of wind energy and manufacturers of equipment are calling for the implementation of feed-in tariffs.

Under the model, state aid would make sure that a producer of renewable energy would get a sufficient price for the electricity that is produced.

Wind energy requires the existence of a certain amount of additional generating capacity from other sources to make up for times when there is not enough wind to run wind power plants.

However, special researcher Hannele Holttinen of the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) notes that in major wind energy producers such as Denmark, Germany, and Spain, it has not been necessary to build new capacity to balance out the shortfall on calm days.

The feed-in tariff could increase the number of individual small wind power installations, says Jari Ihonen, chairman of the Finnish Wind Power Association.

“But in total energy production it will never have a significant role – a couple of per cent at the most.”

By Samuli Laita

Helsingin Sanomat

28 April 2008