Offshore Wind Race Heats Up In Baltic Sea, Russia Or Not

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Russia also has a slim coastal finger on the Baltic Sea, providing it with a golden opportunity to tap into rich offshore wind resources. To nobody’s surprise, it has taken a hard pass. However, activity has been ratcheting up among other Baltic nations. That includes a new 975-megawatt wind farm for Germany, featuring Siemens Gamesa wind turbines with a “power boost” option to boost production.

Smart Money Gets Behind Baltic Sea Offshore Wind

The latest news comes from Skyborn Renewables, the German offshoot of the high powered New York-based renewable energy and infrastructure investment firm Global Infrastructure Partners. For the record, earlier this year GIP was acquired by an even more high powered New York firm, BlackRock, which is known for its renewable energy investments,.

Skyborn launched in 2022, but it did not come out of nowhere. The company is a rebrand of the more familiar offshore wind developer wpd renewables. Wpd already had 7 gigawatts in offshore wind in its pocket by 2022, concentrated in 14 European and Asia-Pacific markets.

The rebrand also launched with wpd’s 30-gigawatt pipeline of “highly diversified offshore wind projects in various stages of development” to its credit.

All this is by way of saying that the smart money is on offshore wind in general, and Baltic Sea wind in particular. BlackRock has a mixed portfolio, but the firm has gained a reputation for pushing the clean power envelope. That includes advising New Zealand on its 100% renewable energy plan as well as assisting Ukraine with its green recovery.

More Gigantic Wind Farms For The Baltic Sea

Skyborn has not been letting the Baltic Sea grass grow under its feet. In 2023 the company’s Finnish branch,  Skyborn Renewables Offshore Finland Oy, proposed a 3.6 gigawatt wind farm between Finland and Sweden, to be located within Finland’s economic zone.

Last July, the company also applied for a permit to build a wind farm in Swedish waters near Stockholm, described as “the 2,800 MW Fyrskeppet offshore wind farm north of Örskar in Uppsala County, about 50 kilometres off the coast.”

“Fyrskeppet Offshore is expected to generate up to 11 TWh fossil-free electricity when completed, which corresponds to eight per cent of Sweden’s current electricity consumption,” Skyborn noted in a press statement.

“Skyborn is also developing Eystrasaltbanken in the Bothnian Sea off Hudiksvall, and Storgrundet offshore wind farm off Söderhamn,” the company added. “In total, Skyborn’s development portfolio in Sweden is four offshore areas with a power production potential of 40 TWh annually.”

Germany Dives Into Baltic Offshore Wind Pool, With Power Boost

Germany is also getting a piece of the Skyborn action. Earlier today, the news organization Renewables Now was among those reporting that Skyborn has received a permit to build the 927-megawatt Gennaker offshore wind farm for Germany, off the Darß peninsula north of Berlin, featuring 103 turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa.

The 8.6-megawatt turbines can reach up to 9 megawatts when their “power boost” controller feature is engaged.

As described by Siemens, the controller enables wind turbines to ramp up their power production by increasing the rotor speed under certain carefully calibrated conditions.

“Increasing the turbine’s nominal power output by up to 5 % is done by increasing the rotational speed of the rotor proportionally to the power increase,” Siemens explains. “Depending on wind distribution and temperature, the power boost feature can increase annual energy production up to 2%.”

The power boost option can be applied to onshore wind farms, but Siemens notes that offshore wind resources are more optimal, partly because they tend to be higher and partly because they fluctuate less.

More Smart Money In The Baltic Sea

Another indication of investor interest in the Baltic Sea crossed the CleanTechnica radar earlier this year, when the leading IKEA franchisee Ingka Group announced a partnership with the renewable energy group OX2 to develop an offshore wind project called Neptunus, to be located in Swedish waters.

“If all goes according to plan, Neptunus will sport up to 207 turbines with a total capacity of up to 3.1 gigawatts,” CleanTechnica noted (see lots more of our Baltic Sea coverage here).

Considering the moribund state of Russia’s renewable energy industry, it’s not surprising to see nothing going on at that end of things.

Aside from lack of interest, part of the challenge is lack of space. Russia’s slice of the Baltic Sea coast consists of Kaliningrad, a narrow piece of land completely separated from the rest of the country by Poland and Lithuania.

Kaliningrad was established in the aftermath of World War II with a relatively generous Baltic Sea economic zone that initially covered 189 nautical miles. Following the collapse of the USSR in the 1980s, that area has been shaved down to just 4.5 nautical miles, much of it presumably taken up with activities of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, which is headquartered in the city of Kaliningrad.

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Green Hydrogen, Of Course

Former Soviet-affiliated states on the Baltic coast face no such hurdles. Poland is another Baltic state with big wind development plans, and apparently we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Back in December of 2022, CleanTechnica took note of a six-nation consortium called the Nordic-Baltic Hydrogen Corridor, aimed at putting clean kilowatts from offshore wind turbines to work on reducing carbon emissions from industrial clusters in the region.

Instead of relying on new electricity transmission lines, the project leverages hydrogen gas produced from water by electrolysis systems. Gas transmission system operators in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithiuania, Poland, and Germany joined together to launch the project.

The ambitious project will take some time to get underway considering all the moving parts involved, but a key milestone was passed in January when the consortium engaged the firm AFRY Management Consulting to conduct a pre-feasibility study. If all goes according to plan the study will be completed by the middle of this year, putting the project on track for implementation by 2030.

The Estonian gas systems operator Elering explains that the project will help stimulate the country’s renewable energy industry, by creating a new multi-national market for green hydrogen.

“Creating additional cross-border energy infrastructure enhances energy security by enabling it to cover both Estonia’s and Europe’s energy needs with local energy supply, reducing the need for third-country energy imports,” the company also notes.

“For Europe, this project strongly supports the EU’s hydrogen strategy and the REPowerEU plan, reducing the reliance on Russian energy imports,” they add.

Russia expected to tighten its grip on global energy markets by subjugating Ukraine, but it sure looks like the law of unintended consequences has kicked in, bigly.

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Image: Siemens “PowerBoost” adds more megawatts to offshore wind turbines (screenshot courtesy of Siemens).

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