Green ship and Baltic renewables

(Ed Suominen, CC BY-NC)

It’s probably a good time to associate the Baltic states with renewable energy as a new, very environmentally-friendly ship is agreed and Baltic renewable energy efforts are praised in a report.

Talks to build the first green Eco-ship, between the Finnish shipbuilders Artech Helsinki and the Japanese Peace Boat NGO, were concluded with a signing of a letter of intent on June 7th,  reported the Baltic Transport Journal. The ship, a cruise liner cum floating green laboratory will be ready to sail by 2020. Weighing in at 55,000 tons it will be a cruising exhibition hall and platform to promote peace and environmental awareness , visiting 100 ports per annum and carrying 2,000 passengers in 750 cabins.

The Peace Boat organization dates from 1983 and began as a student initiative to counter the then Japanese government’s denial over its wartime activities. Since then it has become some sort of an eco-Flying Dutchman sailing around the world with its green message. The Artech shipyard is renowned for its icebreakers. In this latest venture, the Peace Boat eco-ship aims to challenge the status quo about cruise ships, which it sees as outdated and polluting. It has a radical design created by Oliver design. The below- waterline shape is hydrodynamic (based on the lines of a whale) and the above the waterline shape looks more like a jet airliner and is intended to be aerodynamic . It has ten retractable wind generators, ten retractable photovoltaic sails and is able to generate 750 Kw of solar energy. This will lead to a 20 per cent cut in energy propulsion and a 50 per cent cut in electricity use. The hull uses an air bubble lubrication system to decrease drag.

Onboard are vertical farming and plant kingdoms, an enclosed water loop system and a zero-waste discharge system. It is unclear when the ship will be launched.

By sea, by land

Baltic renewable energy efforts are on the rise according to Renewablesnow.com portal. According to the website the expansion of renewable energy has been robust and fast over the last two years and “faces good prospects in each state.” Estonia ranks highest in terms of investor attractiveness, followed by Lithuania and Latvia. The latter though, if the hydro-electric capabilities are excluded, is one of the worst in the EU.

Political will as always is the key according to Martynas Nagevicius, President of Lithuania’s Renewable Resources Energy Confederation. “It is estimated that the Baltic region has some of the most favorable renewable energy expansion conditions in Europe. So how and if they will translate into clean energy projects depends on the support of politicians in the three states. Not always it has been there, unfortunately,” he stated.

Estonia comes out on top in his estimates. It‘s transitioning away from fossil fuels to biofuels, photovoltaics and wind. It‘s also among the EU leaders in introducing hybrid and electric cars. Estonia invested EUR69.3m in 2016, exceeding the figure for 2013-2015.

There are 456.6 MW of installed renewable power, according to Erki Ani, Project Manager at the Estonian Renewable Energy Association. It has added 3.74 MW of a new solar power to reach a total of 11 MW. The electricity output doubled in 2016 to 3 GWh.

“We are expecting to see more ‘big’ solar parks to be developed in the near future. The last six months have seen proposals for nine solar systems with a 3.9MW capacity,” he said. One 7.05 MW wind park was added in 2016. Total wind capacity now stands at 310 MW. Two offshore wind parks will add 1.3 GW. The biomass sector is no slouch either, and accounts for 55.6 per cent of renewable energy.

Nagevicius bemoaned Lithiunia’s bid for nuclear energy in the period from 2008-2012 with the aborted Visaginas power station; renewables development was hamstrung.

Nonetheless, progress has been made and wind power is ranked highly, the first in the 2016 Wind Europe Report, with a 16 per cent of wind energy in relation to power consumption ratio. Ireland came the second with 13 per cent and Germany the third with 10 per cent.

In 2016 wind capacity amounted to 178 MW and the average consumption was 1,1 GW. Renewables generated 2.02 TWh in 2016, 19.3 per cent of the national total and over half of domestic output. The Lithuanian government intends to install 200 MW solar power by 2020, according to Viats Maciulis of Lithiuania’s Solar Energy Association. He also stated that growth could be 5 per cent. The government’s plan, he feels, is too restrictive. The country has 799.3 MW of renewable energy generation capacity – 498.9 MW from wind, biomass and hydroelectric account for 64.9 MW and 127.9 MW respectively. By 2023 the proportion of renewables is aimed to rise to 23 per cent of total energy.

Latvia could do better

The adherence to gas has a negative effect on renewables. Nagevicius commented that “the fact that Latvia, with its immense wind power potential, remains at the bottom of Europe renewables users list is hardly explainable.”

This view was confirmed by Kristups Stepanov, head of Latvia’s Association of Wind Energy Producers. Commenting on the fact that Latvia built one turbine farm of 6.9 MW capacity; the reluctance he ascribes to ‘environmental concerns’. “There will probably be little growth in this sector but from 2020 the regulatory structure should be in place,” he said.

Hydroelectric power stands at 37.8 MW, higher than the other Baltics . But solar and wind ones rank lower. Wind-power in Latvia is 70MW, Estonia is 300 MW and Lithuania is 500MW

“We look forward to introducing a new renewables support mechanism by the end of the year or in early 2018,” Stepanov said “and a new auction system has to go into force by 2020. If it happens as planned , Latvia may see a breakthrough.”

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