From rudimentary windmills to modern wind turbines, the ancient principle of a spinning blade transforming wind into energy is still applicable. Although wind is a renewable resource with huge potential, it is very little used by the neighbors around the Black Sea—Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

Authors: Lilia Curchi, Lucia Tăut, Ștefan Scorpan

The winds of the future: Increasingly popular among Black Sea neighbors, wind energy can provide us with a clean future

Georgia: big investments for more energy

As we pass Gori, a city located about an hour’s drive from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, six turbines arise one by one in front of us. We stop on the highway where a man has set up a booth and sells vegetables.  We ask him how to get to the wind turbines. He assumes that we are not locals because everyone who lives here knows about the new country road to the first Georgian wind power plant.

The wind is strong in Gori which is a plateau in the Kvernaki Mountains at an altitude of 824–872 meters. The experts say this place is one of the greatest potential sources of wind power in Georgia. With an overall capacity of over 20 megawatts (MW) per year, the wind power plant was commissioned in December 2016 and is a part of Qartli Wind Farm project of the Georgian Energy Development Fund financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). This is an important partnership to increase renewable energy production in Georgia and to reduce dependence on energy imports, especially in winter.

An area of 25 hectares of land, mostly state owned, was allocated for the six turbines arranged on a north-south axis;

however, the energy potential of the area allows for increasing the installed capacity up to 150 MW, i.e. by installing 35 additional turbines of the same capacity of 3.45MW each.

The electric energy produced by the six turbines is monitored by the personnel of the power plant consisting of VESTAS company experts and  personnel from adjacent communities.

Engineer Zurab Samharadze has been working here since the beginning of construction. The opening of the wind power plant provided him with a job near his house and family in the neighboring village. The guards of the administrative building also have stable jobs, and they also live nearby.

“Here, all this area was empty; there wasn’t even a road here. People only occasionally travelled to the television tower. The locals taking their cows to the pasture were afraid of the wolves hunting here. Now, we have a road, jobs and energy,” Zurab proudly said.

Zurab Samharadze, engineer at Gori

Tornike Kazarashivili, Chair of the Administrative Board of the Qartli Wind Farm says that the Gori Wind Power Plant generates 88 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electric power which is enough to supply energy to about 18,000–20,000 families.

Tornike Kazarashivili, Chairman of the “Quartli Wind Park”

At present, the Georgian Energy Development Fund envisages building three more wind power plants. They will be located in Nigoza Village, Kaspi Municipality (up to 50 MW), in Sachkhere (120 MW) and in Zestafoni Metropolitan Area (150 MW).

According to data of the Ministry of Energy of Georgia, the country has considerable potential for wind energy with an estimated average annual capacity of 4 billion kWh.

Moldova: Popular but insufficiently supported wind energy

Three years before their advent in Georgia, the first wind turbine appeared in the north of Moldova. Installed in an agricultural field in Brătușeni Village, Edineț District, the turbine was connected to the grid in April 2013 and produces 1,100 kW every day. The investment is private and amounted to 8.5 million lei (500,000 euros). Every year, the turbine produces 1.5 million kWh of electric power that is delivered to the regional distribution grid  SA RED Nord-Vest.

After three hours of driving from Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, we enter Edineț District and see the great turbine on the right side of the road. One’s initial impression is subjective, of course, but it is definitely a novelty on the Moldovan landscape. The installation is 60 meters high and has a capacity of 1.3 MW.

Eoliana from Brătuşeni, Edinet

Only a few kilometers further along the road we see several more turbines:  two on the outskirts of Cupcini Town, four on the Cupcini sugar factory premises and two on the outskirts of Edineț Metropolitan Area. Overall, there are nine turbines in this district, all private investments, with a capacity of 9.6 MW. Eight wind turbines were installed last year in Edineț, and two turbines are under construction now. Edineț Metropolitan Area has 18,000 people; the installed turbines already produce 3 MW more than their actual energy consumption.

Cupcini – Two turbines are waiting to be put into operation

A huge cylinder is at the base of a new wind turbine that will be installed at the outskirts of Edineț City. We can reach the workers easily as the foundation of the new installation is about 300 meters from the main road. The site of the installation is an agricultural field where tomatoes, peppers and aubergines grow; farmers are harvesting the last crop of the year.

As in a puzzle, the parts of the future turbine are waiting to become a whole

Up to 20 tons of reinforced concrete will form the foundation of the future turbine. A team of Moldovan workers has already done this work.

The workers prepare the support of the future Edinet turbine

Ilie Mitriniuc, director of a construction company, says that he would not have thought of constructing foundations for turbines several years ago. Today, investors do not call on experts from abroad but instead sign installation contracts with local companies. The company has already built foundations for the nine turbines that were commissioned last year and is building three foundations this year. This wind farm will have a capacity of 1.6 MW.

Ilie Mitriniuc

Ecologist Grigore Musteață, Chair of the local NGO Colaborare (Collaboration), says that the current interest in wind energy and in other types of renewable energy is due to the education and awareness raising campaign they have conducted for several years.

“Today, Edineț holds first place in the production of green energy. We are proud that we were able to convince people to invest in this field. This is how we reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives,” he added.

The ecologist regreted that there is no feed-in tariff in Moldova because the economic entities that supply wind energy must sell it to the grid below the current market price for energy.

Grigore Musteață

The north of Moldova does not, however, have the most wind potential; actually, the south of the country has better wind conditions. The annual average speed of wind is 6.5 – 8.0 meters/second (m/s), but Moldova has not recorded a wind speed greater than 8 m/s. According to the experts, these parameters are suitable for 3rd class turbines (annual average speed 6.0–7.5 m/s) with a tower height of 100 meters.

Wind speeds at Edineț in the north of Moldova

Energy expert Professor Ion Sobor of the Energy Faculty of the Technical University of Moldova says that the situation with electric power is critical in Moldova as we produce only 18% of the power consumed while almost 80% comes from the self-proclaimed Moldovan Transnistrian Republic. If Transnistria were to block the power supply as a result of the growing conflict with Chișinău, Moldova could be left without energy. That is why the development of renewable sources of energy is an acute need in Moldova.

Ion Sobor

“Unfortunately, there are only a few turbines in the north that were not new when purchased and are not the latest designs. It is envisaged that in 2018 when the Law on Fostering Renewable Sources of Energy comes into force, the first state tender will be announced. It is not known what maximum capacity the government will approve for renewable sources. People refer to 150 MW or less, but this includes all types of energy: wind, photovoltaic and biogas. After the law takes effect, investors will appear in this field,” Professor Sobor predicted.

A tandem is more and more common – electrical networks carry the energy of wind

According to experts’ calculations, the regions that have the most wind potential in Moldova cover about 1830 km2 which is less than 6% of the country’s land area. The total capacity that can be installed is 9151 MW which would not be fully used because it exceeds the technical capacity of the electric power system and the current consumption of Moldova.

Ukraine: The freedom of having their own electric power

Although the weather forecast predicted rain, we risked leaving Odessa for the Mykolaiv Region which is considered an area with high wind potential in Ukraine.

We were accompanied by Viktor Lopuhov, a young engineer we met in Odessa. Fond of renewable energy, he spoke with enthusiasm about the freedom to have their own electric power without worrying that someone could switch it off for geopolitical reasons.

Fifteen years ago, in order to earn some extra money he accepted the offer of a friend to work as a sales agent for solar panels. He knew nothing about them and just recited the specifications that he learned from a leaflet he had received by heart. “Obviously, nobody wanted to buy from a seller like me,” he admitted. To convince people, he decided to get more information about this field and discovered a new activity that absorbed him. Shortly thereafter, he ventured into creating his first solar panel.

Victor Lopuhov, the enthusiast who learned about the renewable energies on the go

That attempt failed, but he did not give up and later started designing and building solar panels. “Some call me an inventor, others say I am an enthusiast, but I consider myself an engineer,” the young man said. A decade later, he decided to get a university degree in the field.

A symbol of renewable energy

“Before installing a wind turbine, the wind velocity is measured with a 100 meter-high antenna over the course of a year. If the results are positive, a wind station is established,” he  continued.

After about half an hour of driving, we entered the fields of Tuzly Village, Berezanskyi District, Mykolaiv Region. It was cloudy, a sign of the rain promised in the forecast, so we hurried to launch a drone in order to capture images of the five wind turbines. It would be evening in less than an hour and people would switch on the lights in their houses. Their energy is green, generated by the wind station.

Tuzly has a population of 920 people; the construction of a wind farm on the community’s land has made it famous. The five turbines with a capacity of 2.5 MW each are part of a broader project called Ochakiv Wind Farm. The equipment components were produced in Ukraine under the license of the German company Furlender Felbermayer Wind Logistics.

The chair of the Tuzly Rural Council, Ihor Rogaliov, says that interest in the construction of wind farms in the region had arisen more than seven years ago. In 2010, after the installation of 10 turbines in Ochakiv, the Ukrainian Wind Farms Company suggested extending the project to Tuzly, and in August 2012, the wind station was commissioned. Although the community expected some benefits from the very beginning, there were no changes in the first four years, Mr Rogaliov said, as there was no contract to stipulate a relationship between the community and the investor

Igor Rogaliov

Things have changed now. A social partnership for 25 years was established, and the benefits for the village have included the construction of a water supply system, a street lighting project and the arrangement of the land around the local cemetery. The village has become attractive for other investors who have expressed interest in installing a photovoltaic station on non-farm lands.

Tuzly, Ukraine, a village where winds lead to new investment projects

The total capacity of the Ochakiv Wind Farm project is 37.5 MW and includes two wind stations: 10 turbines in Dmytrivka Village, Ochakiv District and 5 turbines in Tuzly Village, Berezanskyi District. Overall, it is planned to have a capacity of 375 MW at the Ochakiv Wind Farm, and the project is at the extension phase according to the webpage of Furlender Felbermayer Wind Logistics.

Ukraine has a large number of areas with good wind potential: the regions of the Black Sea and Azov Sea, the Carpathian areas, the trans-Carpathian areas and the lower Carpathians, the upper Donbass areas (now under Russian Federation occupation) and Dnipropetrovsk Region. Thus, Ukrainian engineers have specialized in designing, building and exploiting wind stations, and companies already have experience in the production of wind energy equipment. The development of wind energy is supported by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, including through a feed-in tariff.

Before the rain came … to the Tuzly wind station

Experts say that after 6–7 months of operation, a wind turbine will produce the energy consumed by its construction and installation. A single wind turbine will then produce clean energy for the next 25 years with servicing a maximum of twice a year.

In 1996, a state program for the construction of wind stations was launched in Ukraine. According to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the wind potential is estimated at 30 terawatt hours per year, while the total capacity of wind energy might reach 16 GW by 2030.

One of the six wind turbines in Tuzly

Energy security for the Black Sea neighbors

With zero emissions of noxious substances, wind energy is not just an internal source of energy that can contribute to the reduction of imports but is also clean energy without the greenhouse effects of gas. Wind along with other types of renewable resources is an important source of energy, even though overall its contribution is small. It is one of the opportunities that must be exploited to reduce the external energy dependence of the three Black Sea neighbors: Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.