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Bird surveys for the Utilitas Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm recognized by ornithologists

The two-year-long fieldworks for bird surveys, which took place as part of the environmental impact assessment for the Utilitas Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm, was completed and received recognition by ornithologists for its thoroughness.

“New renewable electricity production capacity is important to achieve Estonia’s green goals, economic growth, and energy security. When building new wind farms, it is extremely important that they have as little impact on nature as possible – on birds, fish, and marine life. Therefore, the environmental surveys relating to the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm was carried out extremely thoroughly with two years spent on fieldwork,” said Kristiina Nauts, Planning and EIA Lead at Utilitas Wind. 

Utilitas Wind has been developing the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm since 2021 and has moved forward with quick steps in order to remain competitive and to start the wind farm’s electricity production before 2030.

In the area of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm, the bird surveys were carried out in accordance with the international standards and best practices, which is also required in the Maritime Plan of Estonia.

Both Estonian ornithologists and international experts were involved in conducting the surveys. During the studies, which covered migration periods of two years, a total of nearly 150 days of radar surveys were carried out at the sea. An additional 10 flight counts were performed per year for counting resting waterfowl. The thoroughness of the research is additionally supported by the fact that the birds nesting on the banks of Kihnu islets were monitored with GPS devices, which is usually not done during the environmental impact assessment of offshore wind farms.

According to Kaarel Võhandu, Head of the Estonian Ornithological Association, the research ordered by Utilitas was done very thoroughly, taking into account the best available practices. “We highly recognize Utilitas for these works. Regretfully, we have experience with several other developers who try to do as little as possible. Thorough research is actually in the developer’s own interest, as it reduces the chance that the permits given will be challenged later or revoked by the courts. In addition, such in-depth studies provide information on how to cause the least damage to our natural environment,” he said.

It became clear from the results of the surveys carried out last year that wind turbines cannot be planned in the Southern part of the original Saare-Liivi development area, specifically due to the birds. Therefore, with the permission of the Consumer Protection and Technical Supervision Board (TTJA), the development area was partially shifted west. The size of the development remained the same, ca 300 km2.

The construction of the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm is an important step to help achieve the national goal of producing Estonia’s electricity entirely from renewable sources by 2030. “Offshore wind farms are indispensable tools in our climate because in winter when the demand for electricity is significantly higher, they produce more energy than onshore wind or hybrid farms of the same capacity,” said Nauts.

The areas suitable for offshore wind farms in the Livonian Bay were defined by the county plan established in 2017 for the marine area bordering Pärnu County. TTJA initiated the building permit procedure for Utilitas Wind’s Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm at the end of 2021. Utilitas Wind is moving forward with planning and design activities at a pace that would allow the Saare-Liivi offshore wind farm to produce environmentally friendly electricity before 2030. According to the technical conditions issued by the grid company, approximately 80 wind turbines are planned to be erected in the first stage of the development, with a total capacity of 1,200 MW. Expected annual electricity production exceeding 5 TWh.