The Ministry of Defence has told ERR that attempts to construct a wind farm in the northeast of Estonia lack the required permits. However the copmany carrying out the work denies it is construction work they are doing, and simply involves ‘storage’ activities.
The company in question, Aidu Tuulepark OÜ, a holding of businessmen Oleg and Andres Sõnajalg, is continuing with the construction of the wind farm in Ida-Viru County, according to the Ministry, something they are not allowed to do until the permissions issue has been resolved.
The Ministry of Defence, whose radar operations could potentially be disrupted by wind farm turbines, is using footage filmed via drone in late May this year as evidence that the work is continuing despite fines already having been meted out, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence Meelis Oidsalu has said.
Construction of the wind farm has already been long in progress, having begun in 2016, with a view to construction 2019-2020. However it subsequently ran into legal difficulties.
Differing plans, differing municipalities
The root cause seems to have been differences in plans drawn up regarding the dimensions of the wind turbines, as well as overlapping municipality interests.
According to the original thematic plan in March 2011, 33 wind turbines with a maximum mast height of 135m and maximum total height of 185m including rotor blade could be put up in the area.
The Ministry of Defence meanwhile endorsed a preliminary design in April 2012 according to which the maximum height of the 33 turbine towers was to be 6m lower at 129m, without changes being made to the elevation of the ground, with a maximum rotor blade diameter of 56m.
The Lüganuse municipal government issued permits for the construction of 33 turbines of a set with a mast height of the higher figure from the above, ie. 135m, in February 2013, making reference to the approval of the project previously issued by the Ministry of Defence.
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However the Governor of Ida-Viru county found that the designs for which the construction permits issued on the basis of a decision of the government of the Maidla municipality, not the Lüganuse one, differed substantially from the designs agreed with the Ministry of Defence, and took sought their cancellation in the courts.
The Governor also argued that the construction permits run counter to the thematic plan, as the design and the parameters of the actual wind turbines differ from those set out in the plan.
Sõnajalg brothers’ view
In any case the Sõnajalgs deny that the work being done is a continuation of this wind turbine construction.
Andres Sonajalg told ERR that “The Ministry of Defence is telling outright lies,” and also stated that the ferrying of turbine blades and turbine towers to the site constitutes storage work, not construction.
“We have the Right of superficies,” Sõnajalg went on.
”We have a property which has been granted to us for 99 years and we can do anything on that land that does not get in the way of any defence capability. The Ministry of Defence has no right to interpret storage as construction activity,” he explained.
However Mr. Sõnajalg went further, interpreting the Ministry of Defence actions in terms of human rights: ”The state is totally ignoring the Constitution, and the state of course has an institution like the Ministry of Defence, which is a repressive body and is repressing its own citizens in the present case,” he opined.
Ministry of Defence view
Nonetheless the Ministry views other activities on the part of the Sõnajalgs, such as adding a layer of crushed limestone or similar to the extent that it could be deemed as constructing a hill-like edifice, is not something that can still be interpreted as ‘storage’.
“The Sonajalgs are simply moving on with construction of the wind farm despite all interim protection orders,” Meelis Oidsalu said, adding that it is apparently their plan to complete four or five wind turbines without a construction permit and thus in violation of the interim protection order, and even to start producing electric energy from said turbines, in order to assuage investor concerns.
“Even if the court fines the Sõnajalgs ten times, these [fines] are merely nominal and they will just pay them, plain and simple,” Oidsalu went on.
“They expect us to acquiesce somehow, and they will pay a penalty or similar where necessary,” he said.
”But this is a style which harks back to the 1990s, when things used to be done this way. We certainly will not agree to such conduct of business, however,” Mr. Oidsalu concluded.
The case is ongoing.