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Finland aims to boost wind power by leasing more state land for construction

The Marin cabinet has a new policy for state lands, in line with its climate target of a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035.

So far Finland gets less electricity from wind power than its Nordic neighbours, around six percent. Wind turbines on the southernmost Hanko peninsula. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Prime Minister Sanna Marin's government aims to expand wind power production by offering more state lands for construction. They are overseen by Metsähallitus, a state-owned company that administers more than 12 million hectares of state land and water areas.

Juha Niemelä, Director General of Metsähallitus, says fostering more wind power is part of the company’s climate strategy.

In the next few years Metsähallitus will make enough land available to build wind farm capacity equivalent to a medium-sized nuclear power plant, he says. However ownership of the land will remain in state hands.

"About 80 new turbines will be under construction within the next few years," says Niemelä, who took over as director in January.

By the end of this year, there will be about 100 wind turbines on state-owned property.

The government parties agreed recently on new ownership guidelines for Metsähallitus in line with the cabinet’s climate target of a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä says the reforms are significant both in terms of boosting renewable energy and regional economies. He points out that local municipalities will benefit from greater tax revenues as a result.

Mikkonen: State ownership must reflect climate policy

According to Environment Minister Krista Mikkonen, it is crucial that state ownership steering of Metsähallitus include a strong impact on climate policy. Mikkonen has said that the government will not abandon the climate targets despite the expected economic downturn from the coronavirus epidemic.

"It will advance renewable energy production on state lands, while also increasing carbon sinks in both the short and long terms," she tells Yle.

Wind power investments on state land will rise to about a billion euros by the end of this year, including existing capacity and new ventures that have been finalised.

Niemelä expects new projects to attract both domestic and foreign companies. He explains that the land will be leased while remaining in state ownership.

New turbines are planned on state land in at least Lapland, Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, but Niemelä says there may be hundreds more in the years to come.

More turbines planned for maritime areas

Niemelä says that another major change will be a new emphasis on building wind power capacity in sea areas.

"We’re launching a study on maritime wind power, which could well have a highly significant impact on Finland’s energy security of supply in the future," he says. At present Finland is heavily dependent on Russia for energy, which last year supplied some 64 percent of its energy imports.

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A wind turbine near the Bay of Bothnia. Image: Yle

Mikkonen says that the government is also planning new tax breaks for maritime wind power.

Esa Vakkilainen, professor of sustainable energy systems at Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT), welcomes this move.

He says it this will help Finland to move more to maritime wind turbines, which can produce up to 50 percent more energy than land-based ones. So far, he says, it has been difficult to build them profitably at sea in Finland, partly due to the challenging ice conditions.