Offshore wind – being a step ahead
Being a step ahead of your neighbours is always a good feeling. With a proposed timeline for offshore wind power development, Lithuania is in the process of becoming the first Baltic State to have an operational offshore wind park by 2030.
Risks and shortages lead to innovation
Lithuania has realised that having almost no fossil fuels reserves, along with the ongoing closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, and being in a highly disadvantaged geopolitical situation, are all factors dictating a strong focus on renewable energy sources. In fact, by 2018, Lithuania had already reached its 2020 renewable energy consumption target. It is also among the 6 forward-thinking EU countries who are active in encouraging the European Commission to ensure 100 % renewable energy sources by 2050. In the meantime, the next logical step for Lithuania is a move towards the sea and the renewable energy resources to be found there.
Using our advantages
Lithuania’s Baltic sea territory is a prime opportunity for the development of renewable energy sources. Studies have shown that approximately 3.35GW of wind power capacity can be harvested from Lithuania’s marine territory. The best location for offshore wind development is 30 kilometres off the shore of Šventoji, where wind speeds reach 9–10 m/s, and the sea depth is an accessible 25–40 m. With infrastructure corridors existing in parallel, this is a highly-favourable combination for the implementation of a successful, and cost-effective energy project.
Currently, Lithuania is pressing ahead with plans to develop a 700MW offshore wind farm which is expected to be completed by 2030. A wind farm of this capacity can produce approximately 2.5-3 TWh of electricity per year, which is almost a quarter of Lithuania’s present energy demands.
To make this happen, Lithuania needs solid regulations to be put in place. So far, the following wheels have been set in motion.
- During the first half of 2020, Lithuania’s Ministry of Energy held intense consultations with the wind power industry and state institutions, on the subjects of potential offshore regulation and the various project development scenarios.
- In June 2020 Lithuania’s Government approved the territory for a 700 MW wind park.
- In September 2020, the previous Government gave approval to a package of draft laws, setting in motion the basis for offshore development: the contract for difference support model; wind park operation time and connection model; the division of responsibilities during the entire process; and other safeguards necessary for the project’s success.
- The new Government re-evaluated the draft laws and in September 2021 suggested some changes to the original proposal. For example, the Government now supports the so-called ‘full-scope approach’, when an offshore wind park developer also builds the transmission asset. The experience from other markets has shown this is a more
cost effectiveway which also helps mitigate risks.
- The Parliament now has the final word on the subject.
Cooperation will be key
Once we have the regulation in place, the next phase relies on implementation. A successful outcome will require high quality pre-tender research, a process which is in the hands of the Ministry of Energy. The Lithuanian energy agency is already in the process of tendering wind measurements, soil and seabed analysis, and bird/wildlife monitoring.
The National Energy Regulatory Council will be the ones responsible for the offshore tender procedures, along with the establishment of a tender cap. These are decisions which must be well-weighted – ensuring the country does not overpay for the facility, along with leaving enough room to facilitate reasonable bids from a business perspective.
However, The challenges will not diminish with the announcement of a successful tender. Starting and finishing the contract within the required time frame will require a coordinated plan of action in all processes.
Including receiving military approval, obtaining the necessary construction permits, tasking an environmental-impact assessment, along with many other subsidiary tasks.
Much depends on having the electricity transmission infrastructure updated, and any new or additional components constructed or installed in time.
So far, the future looks promising, and it is hoped that by 2030 Lithuania will have its own 700 MW offshore wind park in operation, with plans for an additional and similar facility already in place for the future.