Igor Nus:

Igor Nus: "The peak of the wind farm construction in Ukraine is waiting for us far ahead"

The boom in the development of wind energy in Ukraine is still far from over, everything is ahead, the feasibility of developing offshore wind energy in our country is a distant prospect, but definitely not a challenge today, and it is advisable to implement projects for the production of "green" hydrogen using the water resources of the seas.

Read about these and other trends in the wind energy sector in an interview with Igor Nus, Sales Director for Eastern Europe and the CIS of VESTAS, a Danish global wind turbine manufacturer, for ExPro.

Please tell us about the current activities of VESTAS in Ukraine and others (neighbouring) countries, general trends in the global wind energy?

Our company has been present in Ukraine since 2012, we have installed a total of 660 MW, and about 500 MW are under construction. In the countries of the post-Soviet space (ed. - Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Georgia), in general, we have installed about 1 GW of capacity in total. This year we have successfully completed the merger with the offshore wind energy business, and today we respectively have a full line of products for any wind power plant needs.

How many Ukrainian wind farm operators use your equipment?

Today our equipment is used by 3 companies - DTEK, Vindkraft and Eco-Optima.

What is the current situation in the countries of Europe and other countries of VESTAS presence with the development of wind energy?

We are witnessing sustainable growth associated with the widespread transition of the global economy to green energy. We are also seeing a clear boom in green-hydrogen initiatives following the adoption of the European Hydrogen Strategy last year. Ukraine also participates in this hydrogen strategy, which is a considerable merit of Ukrainian diplomats and the Ukrainian hydrogen council. And to develop the industry of "green" hydrogen, a huge amount of renewable energy capacity is needed, to both power the electricity needs of the country, as well as supply enough electrons for electrolysis into hydrogen. This is why, in pilot projects around Europe, we are seeing offshore wind farms (as well as solar plants) as the preferred generation methods for the stable baseload of electricity needed to feed into hydrogen production. Offshore wind energy is now developing in Europe, on the one hand, because these are large unit capacities (15MW wind turbines), and on the other hand, due to the excellent wind speeds seen out at sea. In Ukraine, the situation is still different - we need to use the land for building onshore wind farms, it is too early to talk about offshore ones.

Has the peak of wind farm construction in 2019-2020 passed, in your opinion? What do you predict the dynamics of wind farm construction in 2021?

It's hard to say anything in 2021, but in 2022 everything will be obvious. Analysts predict, for example, an increase in "green" generation by 2030 in the world by several times. As for Ukraine, I think that the peak of wind farm construction awaits us far ahead, since today the installed wind farm capacity in the country is far from sufficient to follow the global trends in the development of renewable energy sources, as well as the declared obligations to switch to green energy. I do not even mention the reconstruction or replacement of traditional energy facilities, most of which are morally and physically obsolete. But we must understand that sooner or later "green" generation will replace obsolete Soviet-built capacities, together with modernized highly manoeuvrable generation and / or already with energy storage batteries In Ukraine, there are difficulties with the legislation for wind farms, in particular offshore stations, problems with land permits, the use of the water area, and the like.

What legislative changes need to be made for the development of offshore wind energy? What are the prospects for its development in Ukraine?

Let's first figure out why offshore capacities are needed in Ukraine today, given the presence of a huge amount of land in coastal zones unsuitable for agriculture? Offshore wind energy is associated primarily with higher construction and operating costs than onshore. LCoE (Levelized Cost of Electricity - standardized cost of produced kWh - ed.) of an offshore wind farm is on average also higher than that of an onshore one. Many people here complain about the high "green" tariff, but here the picture will only get more complicated. Why is it being built then? Because in a number of coastal regions there are problems with the availability and / or value of land, primarily because it is necessary to concentrate a large number of "green" capacities in one place (for example, for the production of "green" hydrogen). I think that offshore energy in Ukraine will start working only when appropriate consumers of "green" energy appear, for whose needs land-based renewable energy will simply not be able to cope. We also need to consider the issue of capacity allocation; it is important that they are closer to the consumer. Today we have a large concentration of renewable capacities in the south of Ukraine, both built and promising, and it is necessary to develop wind energy also in other regions where there is a shortage of capacities. Or build a powerful transmission line from the south to all regions of the country, with minimal losses. And in world trends, everything is moving towards placing generators closer to the consumer.

What can you say about the form of state support for the development of the renewable energy sector in Ukraine and the transition to "green" auctions?

Surely it will be adjusted, as in many countries that have switched to auctions. With our experience, today we do not fully understand how auctions will practically work in Ukraine. Practically - it means that the auction facilities will be put into operation, and not just someone will take part. We observed a similar situation in many countries where RES auctions were introduced - very often they did not work immediately. We will most likely have difficulties at the initial stage that we just need to go through, and the right auction system will need to be found for developers active in Ukraine

Difficulties will arise at the initial stage of green auctions

Are there any problems with delivery to Ukraine, crossing the customs border of VESTAS equipment, its transportation, etc.?

I do not see any problems with the usual working issues, which rarely arise, mainly related to the supply of something that has never been imported to Ukraine before. The main task for customs is to determine and confirm the value. It can take time when we import some innovative products. If you work honestly, then there are no problems with crossing the customs border. With regards to delivery, its complexity can increase the cost of the project. For example, projects in the western regions will be more expensive, including due to delivery, because oversized equipment must be transported from the seaport by land. If from the southern ports, then delivery by road at distances of up to 1000 km is quite difficult. If from Polish ports or Baltic ports, then sometimes there are problems with transportation due to local restrictions.

What risks of Ukraine as a jurisdiction for investments can you name? Do these risks increase the cost of projects (their financing)?

This is a better question to ask the bankers - they usually have the best risk management experts. We focus on assessments by international financial institutions, including the Danish Export Credit Agency (EKF). For example, in Ukraine there is a fairly high risk (Ukraine is at risk level 6 out of 7 possible), while at this time Germany has zero risk. And in this way, the risks increase the cost of the project and not only in terms of lending by financial companies.

What, in your opinion, is the potential for the development of wind energy on the territory of the Chernobyl exclusion zone?

We are not optimistic about this. The operation of a wind farm requires the presence of personnel who will be engaged in construction and operation. Why put people's health at such a risk? Now there is absolutely no need to install capacities there, it is better to consider safe zones, in Ukraine there are many opportunities for this.

Does the company offer a new line of wind power equipment, which one (new capacity, using new technologies)?

Yes, today 4 and 6 megawatt platforms with rotor diameters of 136, 150 and 162 meters are very popular. A distinctive feature of these machines is the use of a full-cycle frequency converter, which gives a fairly stable synchronization of wind turbines with Ukrainian networks under different operating modes. It is obvious that the company is evolving, and we are producing turbines with a higher capacity, which allows us to use a smaller area for wind farms and at the same time generate electricity more efficiently. DTEK RES and VESTAS signed an agreement on the construction of the Tiligul wind farm with a capacity of 500 MW. This wind farm will be the first plant using the EnVentus platform in Eastern Europe.

What is the advantage of this technology? What capacities can this platform be designed for?

This is already an evolutionary development of production, a new generation. This technology has a rotor diameter of 162 m, a blade length of about 80 m, and a power of 6 MW. Turbines of this class have not yet been delivered to Ukraine. This technology makes it possible to obtain a sufficiently high Capacity Factor. While reducing the number of turbines by 2 times compared to the first deliveries in 2012 of the Botievo project (3 MW capacity).

Turbines of 6 MW power class have not yet been delivered to Ukraine

Are there any projects planned in Ukraine using the EnVentus platform?

Wait and see. Market interest is quite high, there is a problem with financing. And, basically, all new projects want to use next-generation platforms.

What power wind turbines are most popular in Ukraine? What can the choice of equipment model depend on?

3x, 4x and 6 megawatt platforms. Each time individually depends on the parameters of the site and the configuration of the project. Here you need to study the project itself, the territory for it, natural conditions. There are cases when our products can be best suitable for some project, for some - our competitors.

Has VESTAS developed hybrid projects (WPP + SPP)? Are there any plans for such in Ukraine? How much more efficient is this than the construction of just a wind farm?

We have developed projects for WPP + SPP + battery. Yes, we are piloting several such projects in the world, for example, the Kennedy Energy Park project in Australia, consisting of 43 MW wind farm, 15 MW solar power plant and 2 MW (4 MWh) battery. Such a project is able to fully provide the city with electric energy. This is definitely the future, since it is independent from balancing capacities, although today it is still an early-stage design that needs to be proven from a financing perspective.

That is, the battery capacity should not be large?

Yes, the battery capacity should not be at the station capacity, as it is pointless. It should cover the necessary peaks in a certain period of time, maintain stable network parameters, and not completely replace generation.

What is the perspective (practice) in the world of implementing hybrid projects by types: WPP + SES + energy storage system; WPP + SPP + production of "green" hydrogen?

Today in the world several large projects for the production of "green" hydrogen together with wind farms are underway. Vestas is involved in the AquaVentus consortium that is piloting offshore wind and green hydrogen production off the coast of Germany, for example. Yes, "green" hydrogen is the future, but mainly with the use of offshore wind farms, since today they allow achieving a high concentration of unit capacity (15 megawatt platform) plus access to water (resource for production + transport of the finished product)..

Yes, "green" hydrogen is the future, but mainly with the use of offshore wind farms

Does the company conduct meteorological studies to start the construction of a wind farm?

This is usually done by developers, for them accurate measurement of the wind potential and other meteorological data is more critical for the financial model and project risk assessment. For us, a correctly conducted wind measurement campaign reduces the risks of uncertainty in assessing the operation of wind turbines at a particular site, including dynamic loads affecting the service life of certain components, as well as humidity and temperature conditions at different times of the year minimum. As for the time, such studies should be carried out over one year. And, accordingly, the larger the sample and the qualitatively conducted research, the fewer risks arise in the future.

Are there any standards for conducting such studies for construction and operation?

There are no clearly established regulations for wind measurements of wind farms in the legislation, usually financial institutions give the regulations. There are special standards in different countries. Environmental impact assessment is regulated in Ukraine. In European countries, it is rather difficult and time-consuming to obtain environmental permits; it is necessary to study various processes in the biosphere on the territory of the power plant. This has an impact on the term of preparation of the project (development).

Is your company also involved in the maintenance of a wind power project?

Yes, almost all of our wind turbines are serviced, thanks to which the customer reduces the risks of equipment downtime to an absolute minimum. And of course, we can carry out turnkey projects, but in Ukraine, due to the availability of a local experienced construction resource, such requests are not often received.

What measures does the company propose / take to protect the environment (migration routes of birds, bats and other representatives of the biosphere)?

There are generally accepted world practices for these assessments; developers are also engaged in this when planning and designing wind farms. Not a single self-respecting bank today will provide financing without a correctly conducted risk assessment, as well as the availability of all the necessary solutions so that these risks can be avoided. Our company is also very scrupulous about the availability of all environmental permits in accordance with local and international standards.

Daria Orlova, Dmytro Sydorov