September 26, 2011

Windpower subsidies remain unclaimed


Although tens of millions of euros were earmarked to advance the sector this year, the construction of a national windpower network is proceeding more slowly than expected. Windpower companies blame regulations such as those that prohibit building them even dozens of kilometres away from airports.

Firms in the sector have laid plans to erect as many as 1,000 new windmills, but now a significant proportion of those projects have been delayed.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been legislation banning tall structures within large zones around airports.

According to the Finnish Wind Power Association’s board chair, Jari Suominen, planning and applying for permits are very time-consuming, expensive processes.

“Nearly half of the places with good winds are within the restricted areas around airports,” he says. “Postponement of these projects means hundreds of millions of euros in extra costs.”

Promising developments – but too late for this year

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (TraFi) is now drawing up new criteria that could provide more room for windmills within aviation zones.

The Finnish Defence Forces have also blocked some projects on the grounds that they could interfere with radar observations. A new research procedure has just been prepared that allows the FDF to precisely determine which mills would disrupt radar operations. So the army will probably be able to give a green light to some projects soon.

The state is committed to supporting renewable energy this year by guaranteeing a certain price for electricity. However the EU did not approve this so-called feed-in tariff until last spring.

Since windpower plants have not moved forward as expected, few firms have applied for these subsidies. Nearly all the funds reserved for such subsidies – more than 50 million euros – will have to be returned to state coffers.

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