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Estonia: Wind farm takes off at former nuke base

Paldiski, Estonia - On the site where border guards used to keep watch on the western outpost of the Soviet Union, Baltic European Union newcomer Estonia is erecting a wind farm to generate clean electricity.

The wind-swept Pakri peninsula, which juts into the Baltic Sea 60km west of the capital Tallinn, once hosted a training centre for Soviet border guards. The nearby town of Paldiski was a key Soviet nuclear submarine training ground.

Today, sleek silver arms of the state-of-art wind power turbines dot the site which was off-limits to civilians throughout the five decades of Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1991.

The first three windmills of the Pakri Wind Farm have just been put into operation, with five others to follow before the end of the month.

When the farm is fully up and running, it is expected to supply one percent of Estonia's energy needs, and about 10 000 Estonian households are expected to get electricity from the farm.

"Paldiski has been associated with the Soviet border guards and military pollution," said Hannu Lamp, managing director of the Tuulepargid company which is developing the wind farm.

"From now on, it will have a new side to it, as a clean energy place."

Tuulepargid is the Estonian subsidiary of Danish-based Global Green Energy.

The streamlined wind turbines with a hub height of 80 metres and rotor diameter of 90 metres, sit on top of the ragged limestone cliffs that soar from the sea. In one corner of the site, some ruins of the Soviet border guard barracks have been preserved as a tourist attraction.

Nearby, a 19th century lighthouse and some more ruins of the Soviet military installations dot the landscape.

The town of Paldiski, originally established as a naval stronghold by Peter the Great in the early 18th century, is pleased that the wind farm is taking shape in the wasteland between the town and the breathtakingly beautiful tip of the peninsula.

"We are very positive about the wind farm," says Regina Ress, spokeswoman for the town.

"It's the complete opposite to what we had in the Soviet time: green energy versus the nuclear submarine training centre and other military installations."

Up to 16 000 Soviet soldiers were stationed in Paldiski. The last of them left in 1994, when the nuclear submarine centre was decommissioned. Since then, the austere town of 3 800 residents has struggled with its Soviet military legacy.

In addition to changing the face of Paldiski, the Parki Wind Farm is setting a precedent in the region in the carbon pollution quota market.

Under the Kyoto Protocol's implementation project, 0.5 million tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be sold to Finland.

"It's among the very first wind power projects anywhere where the economic feasibility is achieved through the sale of CO2 reductions under the joint implementation scheme of the Kyoto Protocol," Lamp says.

On January 1, the EU opened a market for trading in carbon dioxide and other gases which are the main culprits for global warming.

The total investment cost of the Pakri project is 24 million euros.

The wind farm owner, Pakri Tuulepark, is a subsidiary of Norway's Vardar energy group.

Most of Estonia's energy is generated using oil-shale fueled power plants, which are big pollutants.

With an expected annual production of 56 GWh (GigaWatt hours), the Pakri wind farm will meet about one per cent of Estonia's net electricity consumption, and thus contribute to achieving Estonia's target of providing 5,1 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010.

Developers have already made plans for building more wind farms on other former Soviet military installations in Estonia. - Sapa-AFP

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