Poland, Lithuania & Estonia: Potentials of offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea



The first efforts aiming at the development of the offshore wind farms in Poland took place in the last decade but were unsuccessful due to controversial location (within Natura2000), unfavourable legislation and the lack of relevant knowledge of public administration. Development of the technology and successful implementation of investment projects in other EU countries resulted in strong bottom-up activities conducted by the sector, aiming mostly at the improvement of the maritime legislation.

The activities undertaken resulted in publishing of the act concerning maritime areas of the Republic of Poland and maritime administration in 2011 and paved the way for commencement of works aimed at development of the Polish offshore wind farms. The act removed major barriers, such as limited time of operation for what was formally called “artificial islands”, which was primarily only 5 years, and dividing the fee for issuing the location permit into individual payments incurred upon reaching new phases and acquiring administrative decisions in the project. Up to the end of 2012 the Ministry of
Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy had received 63 applications for issuing location consents for the plots located in the Polish Exclusive Economic Zone (PEEZ) that is the only area where erection of the offshore wind farms is allowed, according to the maritime areas act.

According to the estimations conducted by the Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society, the theoretical potential areas within the PEEZ, that are favourable for the development of the offshore wind farms amount to 3500km2, however an area of 2,000km2 is feasible for development
by 2030. Assuming installation density of 5MW/km2, capacity of 10,000MW may be installed.

Besides major energy investors, offshore wind energy constitutes a promising perspective for the Polish shipyard and heavy industry sector. Some of the Polish enterprises have already emerged the European market as providers of installation vessels (CRIST Shipyard – producer of the 3rd generation vessel – INNOVATION), elements for barges and protecting tructures for transformer station (Energomontaz Polnoc) as well as wind towers (GSG Towers – Gdansk Shipyard Group). The recent initiative of CRIST Shipyard, Bilfinger Berger and Gryfia Shipyard (Szczecin) aims at development of production facilities for supporting structures. Therefore, development of the sector creates a perspective for the enterprises from the sector of heavy industry, which has a significant potential built upon the knowledge, human resources and facilities of the former shipyard industry in Poland.

Obstacles to overcome

The most pressing issues aiming at dynamic development of the offshore wind energy sector concern acceleration of the administrative process in the area of issuing location consents, especially referring to the projects undergoing arbitration procedure. That is being applied in the cases of the potential conflict of strategic economic interests in the maritime areas.

Another key concern that influences the entire renewable energy sector is a final formal approval of the act on renewable energy that is expected to introduce a new supporting scheme for renewables. The current system, although it supports wind energy development very well, supports, to a major extent, electricity power stations that are fuelled by both coal and biomass. This results in a situation where the system that aims to support renewable energy actually benefits the coal energy sector.

Last but not least the important challenge for the Polish offshore wind energy sector is the development of interconnection capacities and in further perspective the development of the Polish offshore grids to facilitate interconnection of larger number of wind farms as well as development of cross-border links to the systems being developed by Germany, Sweden and Lithuania. Development of the system with cross-border links (‘Baltic bus’) requires political cooperation and support, similar to one undertaken by the North Sea countries. Successful cooperation will result in multiple benefits, not only to the offshore wind energy but also to improvement of the European energy security.

Thanks to Mariusz Witoriski, Vice-President at Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society


The development of wind energy in Lithuania started in 1993, with a cooperation with the Norwegian electricity enterprise Nord Trondelag Electricity Board. However, lack of both knowledge and a sufficiently defined sustainable development culture, made growth of advanced wind power in Lithuania difficult and slow. Authorities declared that because of fuel burning and nuclear based energy there is no need for wind in Lithuania as an energy production source.

Shaping a sustainable approach to advanced innovations in energy, formed mainly by scientists, along with the UN GEF programme for the Baltic Wind Energy Development programme, and the creation of the Lithuanian Wind Atlas in 2002 all helped get wind energy to be taken seriously in Lithuania.

2002 also saw the first plans for Lithuanian offshore wind power being made. The Lithuanian Wind Energy Association (LWEA) was established with the purpose of creating a general set of advanced activities in onshore and offshore wind energy.

During the implementation of the INTERREG Ilia project, POWER, which set the initial parameters for offshore wind energy for Poland, Lithuania and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in 2006-2008, the scientific preconditions for offshore wind energy development in Lithuania were shaped. Following participation in the e-WindTech, EMPRES, ELOMPRES and ALPER projects, The Lithuanian Strategic Self-Management Institute (SSI) has created a Master degree course on offshore wind energy which is taught at the Klaipeda University Maritime Institute. A South Baltic cross-border cooperation programme has been created with all neighbouring countries to investigate legislative barriers and energy storage opportunities.

Legislative ground for offshore wind development was laid in May 2011 and the Government criteria for the first offshore wind tender by 1 January this year. Successful bidders will then be able to investigate and plan offshore wind farms.

A matter of time

Time will tell when offshore wind energy development and implementation will really start off. In the meantime the industry and research and development centres are preparing themselves.

The LWEA, the LSSMI, innovation companies Eksponente, and the Klaipeda Coastal Research and Planning Institute (CORPI), have gone through great efforts to prepare a set of parameters for offshore wind activities. The South Baltic programme project, SB-OFF.E.R., created a framework for offshore wind cluster activities. The KCRPI is able and equipped to make Environmental Impact Assessment studies for offshore wind power farms. The West Ship Yard already has practical experience in the offshore wind construction work such as turbine foundations, electricity substations and Wind Turbine Installation Vessel, Windliftl. More companies are investigating offshore wind energy participation in Lithuania.

Challenges ahead

The next and essential step is making the step from offshore wind energy theory into offshore wind energy practice. Government and planning institutions are researching the existing and planned organisation of he sea space. Wind (among other marine resources) as a potential renewable resource has been mapped during the integrated planning process. This allows to set the specific priorities on certain marine areas where offshore wind energy development has the maximum economical profit and minimal environmental impact on the ecosystem. The completion of this research is expected to be 1st of November, 2013.

Solar & Wind combination

The last evaluation of offshore wind energy potential showed that 18% of the Lithuanian economic zone with water depths of up to 50 meters would be suitable for offshore wind development. The total potential is 7.2GW which represents 7 times the annual energy consumption in Lithuania! In 6 defined territories there are possibilities to install 1,208 wind turbines of 6MW each.

At the moment there is over 260MW of onshore wind power installed in Lithuania, The interest in offshore wind energy is growing significantly. According to the Baltic Sea Wind map the average wind speed at heights of
100 meters in Lithuanian waters is 8.5 to 9.5 m/s. The wind availability in these areas is over 45%. In the winter season, when the energy consumption is much higher, the offshore wind energy availability is also even higher, over 50%. Offshore wind is therefore per definition the best energy source during the winter season.

Using the combination of solar energy in the summer and offshore wind energy in the winter period could provide Lithuania with clean energy all year through, making the country less to not dependent on import of fuels from other countries. Offshore wind energy will play the most important role in this!

Thanks to Prof. Dr. Stasys Paulauskas, President of Lithuanian Wind Energy Association.


Estonia, situated in the heart of the windy Baltic Sea Region, does not have any offshore wind farms yet but according to the recently conducted Basrec-wind study the northernmost Baltic state has close to 1500MW potential capacity in golden sites where offshore wind could successfully be harnessed to generate electricity. These so called golden sites were based on an initial evaluation of the three primary cost drivers for offshore wind deployment (wind speed, water depth and distance from shore) together with exclusion of the environmentally protected areas.

Coincidently Estonia currently has three offshore wind farm projects planned with a total capacity slightly over 1500MW.

Legal framework

The Water Act is the main legislation that regulates offshore wind farm planning in Estonia, including the use and protection of water, and relations between landowners and water users.

A building permission to build and a permit for the special use of water is required to operate an offshore wind farm in Estonia. Also, the owner of an offshore wind farm must pay an annual charge for using a site in an area of public water. This is enacted by the Electricity Market Act.

National need

There are two national documents that can be considered as pointers for investors when it comes to offshore wind energy development in Estonia. The Development Plan of the Estonian Electricity Sector adopted three years ago foresees 500MW offshore wind energy installed by the end of 2018. However, the more current National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) predicts that offshore wind need only generate 250MW by 2020 to reach the EU 2020 target for Estonia.

The action plan also notes that installing offshore wind farms in Estonia may prove to be more economically favourable than in other EU regions, which makes investment in wind power development in Estonia interesting for those countries that would have difficulty meeting the objectives arising from the Renewable Energy Directive. Therefore, Estonia is currently actively exploring EU cooperation mechanisms and possible partners.

At the same time the Estonian Government recently initiated Marine Spatial Planning in pilot sea areas that border with Parnu and Hiiu County.
These areas overlap with the zones of Estonia’s two offshore wind farm projects – Gulf of Riga and Hiiumaa -belonging to Estonia’s two biggest wind energy operators.

Three projects undergoing

The state owned utility Eesti Energia, plans to erect wind turbines in the region of the Gulf of Riga with a total capacity up to 700MW. They have made feasibility studies and are currently considering areas south and southwest of Kihnu island – the largest island in the Gulf of Riga.

The biggest wind energy producer in the Baltic States Nelja Energia is running the Hiiumaa offshore wind farm project where approximately 200 turbines with a total capacity also up to 700MW are planned to the shoals north, north-west and west of Hiiumaa – Estonia’s second biggest island.

There is also 190MW offshore wind energy project on the Neugrund Reef off the north-western coast of Estonia that is developed by Neugrund OU. All three offshore projects are in different stages of environmental studies.

Role of the national industry

As mentioned, Estonia has great potential in developing offshore wind power but this small country is interested in taking it one step further. Already today the majority of wind generators manufactured globally by ABB is made in Estonia.

The Estonian Wind Power Cluster that operates under the Estonian Wind Power Association has looked into several ways how other companies could also take part in the rapidly and innovatively evolving wind power industry. Considering Estonia’s existing know-how and experience, it appears that offshore wind energy will offer the best opportunities.

Estonia has a long history in shipbuilding and is known for its excellent metalworking skills and so it is no surprise that shipyards are today also adapting to serve the offshore wind industry. Take for example BLRT group that manufactures various structures and special mounts for both on- and off-shore wind farms. They also build catamaran support, and jack up crane vessels, both extremely appropriate for this dynamic industry.

Thanks to Tuuliki Kasonen, General Manager of Estonia Wind Power Association.