Wind farm developers claim compensation from the state

If the state should forbid the construction of modern wind turbines in East Viru county, the furious developers claim 1.2 billion euros compensation.

If the state should forbid the construction of modern wind turbines in East Viru county, the furious developers claim 1.2 billion euros compensation.

In recent years the Ministry of Defense has killed nearly a dozen wind farm projects in East Viru county. The reason is simple: too high windmills disturb the operation of the air surveillance radar in Kellavere, which discovers aircraft approaching from Russian airspace. Furthermore, the turbines disturb the work of signals intelligence systems, whose locations are confidential.

Mati Kuppar, advisor of the Ministry of Defense department of defense investments, said that no more large wind farms can be built in East Viru county for that reason. A working group of officials formed at the Ministry of Defense last summer is reaching the same conclusion.

Wind energy businessmen are surprised at that. Several of them had earlier received the ministry’s unconditional approval for the construction of turbines and the local governments have granted building permits. The developers claim that the state has given them a clear signal and they have justified expectations that they can invest in the county and start their business.

«The state has behaved in a perfidious manner,» says Andres Sõnajalg, whose wind firms have huge plans in East Viru county. Accordingly the wind technology association joining the wind farm developers, headed by Sõnajalg, asked the government: is some compromise possible or will the state make a strategic decision that no more windmills can be built in East Viru county.

In case of the latter option the developers want 1.2 billion euros compensation from the state. This sum includes the investments already made like the construction of access points, purchase of land, labor costs, already built facilities as well as lost profits.

Several developments are halfway

The developers’ claims are not fantasy. The Sõnajalg brothers are building in Aidu village in East Viru county Estonia’s largest land-based wind farm with 30 turbines. Although they received all permits and began building more than 1.5 years ago, court has stopped the construction. The Ministry of Defense discovered this spring that the developers have piled 15-meter gravel cushions under the turbines, which make the windmills higher than permitted.

Andres Sõnajalg considers it absurd that the state interferes only now when the construction is in full swing. He argues that the Ministry of Defense had not initially set any height limits: That is why they designed two meters longer turbine blades and built the artificial hills. Sõnajalg thinks that the project changes have no effect on the operation of the radar. According to him, this is what a recent study by a foreign expert firm Qinetiq says. «We have invested 165 million euros in Aidu and will never give up,» he said. The Aidu case is currently in court.

The Ministry of Defense has also stopped the brothers’ wind farm at Mustanina village with 85 turbines, which would cost 500 million euros. It is true that they have not yet begun to build there, although they got the permit.

Other developers have problems as well. Adepte OÜ has been planning the Päite-Vaivina wind farm with 28 turbines in Toila municipality for years. The firm received an approval of the Ministry of Defense in 2016, but it was rescinded in a couple of months. The explanation was the effect of the wind farm on signals intelligence equipment.

Raigo Sõlg, head of the company, said that he had never head of signals intelligence before. He received no explanations, since intelligence affairs are secret. Sõlg claimed that the ministry too often uses state secrets as a pretext and fails to adequately justify its decisions.

A similar situation is in Varja, Lüganuse municipality, where Adepte plans a wind farm with 25 turbines. Here, too, the Defense Ministry initially granted an approval, which was later rescinded. Both cases are now in court.

Adepte has invested some nine million euros in the East Viru projects. But according to Sõlg, this is not the whole cost the perfidious state should compensate. «If the state does not respect us, we will not respect the state – we shall reclaim all the money we can. State robbery has no place in today’s world.»

Unwilling to find solution

Both Andres Sõnajalg and Raigo Sõlg presume that the Ministry of Defense is trying to support the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia. «It is obvious that the state is improving the efficiency of its business activities and obstructing competitors. Eesti Energia gets all the opportunities,» Sõnajalg said.

He cited as an example that this spring the Ministry of Defense easily granted Eesti Energia permission to increase the height of turbines in Aulepa by 50 meters.

The other objection of the wind businessmen is that the Ministry of Defense is too complacent and does not bother to seek compromise ´in cooperation with the businessmen. «The state should seek for solutions instead of excuses. Out of fear of Russia we are restricting Estonia’s economy and entrepreneurship. These are sort of Russia’s sanctions against us,» Sõnajalg complained.

If the state would not seek for compromise, the developers demand, besides the 1.2 billion, the dismantling of all existing wind farms in East Viru county. As of now there are four major wind farms in East Viru county, property of either Nelja Energia or Eesti Energia. «If turbines disturb the operation of radars and intelligence systems, isn’t it logical that they should all be stopped,» Sõnajalg argued.

Ministry has not granted permission

Ministry of Defense advisor Mati Kuppar said that they observe the law. «We cannot pick and choose whether we like or dislike a wind farm. If it disturbs the operation of defense facilities, we cannot permit it,» Kuppar explains.

He rejected the claims that the ministry had initially granted permission to build the wind farms under question. «Local governments of East Viru county have often made promises to developers without coordinating with us and thus created unjustified expectations among entrepreneurs,» Kuppar said.

As for the Aidu wind farm, Kuppar explained that the local government had granted the brothers Sõnajalg a construction permit without asking the Ministry of Defense. «Besides, they have omitted the base of the foundation from total height of the structure. If you add up the artificial hill, the foundation and the tower, the resulting height is significantly more than permitted,» Kuppar said.

Who is responsible? Kuppar offers that the problem’s roots may be in East Viru county’s planning system, which lists the locations suitable for potential wind farms.

Kuppar pointed out as the next major problem that the wind farms planned in East Viru county are huge and are creeping all the time closer to the Kellavere radar station. «They plan 200-300-meter turbines and 50-70 of them. This forms a sort of forest our systems cannot see through,» he explained.

Since the existing wind farms in East Viru county are predominantly smaller types with the height of 120-150 meters, there is no need to dismantle them, since the harm is not that great. «Although it is true that they disturb radar images as well,» the major admitted.

The army does not intend to relocate the radar, since Kellavere is the optimum location for covering the entire Estonia. «It is also the most modern one.» The solutions offered by the developers are not suitable for national defense, Kuppar said.

Kuppar also denied favoring Eesti Energia. «The Aulepa wind farm is located exactly between two radars, the Muhu and Ämari ones. Thus the Muhu radar can cover the Ämari dead area and vice versa,» he explained.

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