As reported on ERR News the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that construction permits for the proposed Aidu wind farm in Lüganuse are valid, ruling against the justice ministry. While Oleg and Andres Sõnajalg, the two brothers behind the project, have claimed a victory, noting that now all that needs to be done is count the cost of a legal battle and delays in construction going back to 2017, the Ministry of Defense says the Supreme Court’s decision is not substantive.
Additionally, the main consumer watchdog body in Estonia, who the Sõnajalgs were also in a legal battle with, have said existing turbines that have not constructed in line with regulations are still subject to the construction ban which was overturned.
The proposed wind farm, at Aidu, in Lüganase municipality in Ida-Viru County, has seen a long-running saga of opposition to it and its developers, with the justice ministry weighing in on behalf of the Ida-Viru County governor, whose original protest against the issuing of construction permits was overruled by both Tartu administrative and Tartu circuit courts (it is the original decision which was upheld by today’s Supreme Court decision).
Work started on the project in 2013 but progress has been persistently held up on the issue of permissions and related concerns. The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Defence have all opposed the project at some stage, with the latter claiming the turbines at the proposed farm were at a height which would interfere with ministry radar.
The Sõnajalgs were also in a separate battle with the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), which said the turbines design was not in accordance with the original thematic plan.
“We have now confirmation by the highest court that the existing construction works at Aidu wind farm have been carried out in accordance with the building permits and the temporary building ban has ended,” Oleg Sõnajalg said in a press release on Tuesday.
Calculating the costs to their project and business was the next thing to be done, Sõnajalg continued.
“Unfortunately, the losses related to the suspension of construction work are
significant. The unexpected suspension in the construction of a large wind farm with 30 wind turbines is obviously causing direct damage in terms of large-scale procurement contracts violations,” he continued.
Andres Sõnajalg, board chair of Eleon Green, which is developing the wind farm, also said the Supreme Court decision overrules precepts issued by the
Defense ministry response
The Ministry of Defence, one of three ministries which had been embroiled with the Sõnajalgs over the matter, has claimed that the ruling does not change the state of affairs for the existing turbines, however, which could mean that these could still be required to be taken down.
“Today’s ruling at the Supreme Court did not change the factual circumstance according to which the wind generators already put up in the Aidu wind farm do not correspond to the thematic spatial plan, the design criteria, nor are consistent with the construction permits issued in 2015,” ministry spokesperson Andres Sang told BNS.
“The construction design serving as the basis of the actions of the developer continues to have no endorsement of the Ministry of Defense,” Sang continued.
“The court took no stance as regards the validity or legitimacy of these specific construction permits issued in 2015,” he added.
Consumer watchdog response
The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority sided with the defense ministry. They said the existing turbines – numbers four and six – are inconsistent with the originally submitted plan, and according to an expert assessment, do not correspond with any known construction project. The ban should remain in place until demolition is decided upon, the authority said.