PALDISKI, Estonia, July 20 (UPI) -- Estonian wind energy providers this week tapped GE for 18 turbines to outfit what will be one of the biggest wind farms in the Baltic region.
The state-owned electric utility Eesti Energia and the private company Nelja Energia are building the Paldiski wind farm in Estonia's Harju County. It's situated on the Pakri Peninsula, which juts far out into the wind-swept Baltic Sea.
The new wind farm, which is expected to be completed next year, will add 45 megawatts of electric energy to the Estonian grid and significantly expand the country's installed capacity of 142 megawatts.
It's part of the Estonian government's initiative to expand the country's renewable energy supply and lessen its dependence on Russia for energy supplies.
Eesti Energia is also seeking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through the expansion of wind power.
Including the $46.6 million Paldiski project, roughly 570 megawatts of wind energy projects are being developed in Estonia.
The deal with GE includes nine turbines each for Eesti Energia and Nelja Energia, which is co-owned by Norwegian power company Vardar Eurus, the Estonian investment fund Freenergy AS and the Estonian companies Solarcom OU and Atradius OU.
Stephan Ritter, general manager of GE Renewable Energy Europe, said in a statement the hardware will include 18 GE 2.5-megawatt turbines.
"The higher efficiency, increased reliability, improved ease of maintenance and seamless grid integration features of the 2.5-100 make it an excellent fit for Estonia's robust wind conditions," he said. "This machine produces one of the highest annual energy yields in its class, creating more value for our customers."
GE says it's attracted to Estonia "thanks to strong winds coming off the Baltic Sea" and is bullish about the "significant potential for wind power development" in the country.
The Paldiski wind farm is set for completion next year. GE said it is to begin shipping the turbines in the spring.
The Pakri Peninsula is atop a limestone plateau perched 66 feet above sea level and is buffeted by strong winds. The wind farm is expected to supply enough electricity for nearly 20,000 households with average consumption.
Eesti Energia said the agreement with GE covers the construction of the foundations and assembly of the main wind turbines. The main grid connection substation is already under construction and the civil engineering bids will be finalized over the summer.
Among the many other projects in the Estonian wind energy pipeline is a massive offshore wind farm on the Hiiumaa Islands -- a 310-megawatt facility that will boast 250 turbines and cost approximately $528 million to $616 million, to the green energy news Web site EcoSeed said.
The islands have an average wind speed of 15.2 mph, higher than on-land speeds of 9 to 11 mph. The power from the project, developed by a joint venture between the Estonian company Mainor AS and Greta Energy of Canada, would be exported to Sweden.
That project, however, faces strong opposition from local residents on ecological and economic grounds. They fear the massive wind farm would hurt tourism, the Web site reported.
Also, the rollout of wind power will result in higher electric rates for Estonian consumers, with some fearing prices could double.