As Ukraine Builds New Reactors, Renewables Beckon

As Ukraine Builds New Reactors, Renewables Beckon

Earlier in April, the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv was at Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plant, celebrating the first concrete poured for the first of two U.S.-designed AP1000 nuclear reactors to be built at the site.It’s just the start of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power firm’s investment plans. In June, Energoatom says it will start building two further VVER reactors at Khmelnytskyi, which will double the site’s complement of Russian-designed equipment.

Energoatom’s costly plans for more centralized power equipment have sparked alarm among independent energy experts in Ukraine. What Ukraine needs and can afford during wartime, they argue, is a large number of smaller power plants—generators that are relatively cheap, quick to build, less reliant on the national transmission grid, and harder for Russian missiles and drones to destroy.

Local utilities and international donors have focused on small-to-medium-size gas-fired turbine and engine generators, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says more such assistance will come thanks to the US $61 billion aid package just signed by President Biden. Oleksandr Kharchenko, who runs the Kyiv-based Energy Industry Research Center, says gas-fired generators are quick to install and plug into Ukraine’s domestic natural gas and robust pipeline network. “You need something which can switch on and work when you need it,” he says.

But others are also pushing renewable energy, which can also be quick to install. DTEK, Ukraine’s largest commercial power generator, completed its first wind farm in May 2023 near Mykolaiv after less than 10 months of construction.

The destruction wrought by Russia’s intensified attacks on Ukraine’s power system in recent weeks displays the advantage of distributed energy in wartime, according to DTEK executive director Dmytro Sakharuk.

Russia destroyed or severely damaged five out of six of DTEK’s big thermal power plants. “They damaged transformers, generators, turbines, and auxiliary equipment. It’s a total mess right now. Burned land basically,” said Sakharuk in early April.

DTEK employees examine the damage to a power station after Russian attacks in March 2024.DTEK

In contrast, Sakharuk said it would require many more missiles and drones to take out more distributed forms of generation, such as a wind farm. He says that saved Odesa, which early in April had some limited power supply almost uniquely thanks to neighboring wind and solar plants. “Crucial infrastructure and households get electricity just because the wind blows and the sun shines. Huge water pumps and hospitals are powered by solar and wind energy,” said Sakharuk.

Advocates push for distributed power generation

DTEK is one of several firms trying to add more wind power to Ukraine’s grid as the war rages. It plans to start building a second phase of its 114-megawatt Tyligulska wind farmduring the second half of 2024, to expand its capacity to…

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The post “As Ukraine Builds New Reactors, Renewables Beckon” by Peter Fairley was published on 04/26/2024 by