New wind parks have not been built in Bulgaria for well over a decade. This, however, looks likely to change very soon and significantly. Tens of projects, some of which have been in the pipeline since the 2008 - 2010 period, have been "reanimated" and investors have begun looking for ways to enable them. The reasons for this are multifaceted.
Firstly - the prices of electricity are such that energy produced from wind turbines is extremely competitive on the market - around 80 euro/MWh, wherein 200 euro/MWh has been the average norm over the course of the past few months on the regional markets.
Secondly - one of the prolonged effects of the war in Ukraine is the acceleration of the energy transformation of the EU and the aim to reduce reliance on Russian fossil fuels as much as possible. For this to happen the EC already stated at the beginning of March that it will simplify the process of acquiring permits for RES projects in its strategy REPowerEU.
In May of 2022 the EC will present its "Guidelines for national governments" with which member states will be able to improve their administrative processes in regards to RES development. The goal is now clear - energy production must become carbon neutral by 2050 and at least 50% of electricity should come from renewable sources. For this to happen there needs to be an increase of the current capacity of offshore wind from 28 GW in 2021 to at least 60 GW in 2030 and 300 GW in 2050. Onshore wind parks should grow in size from the current 208 GW to 1000 GW for the same period.
One of the investors, who is planning wind farm projects in Bulgaria, is the German wpd. At the beginning of this year the company announced its ambitious offshore wind megapark in Romania with a capacity of 1.9 GW, off the Black Sea coast. Now it has become clear that they will be developing a project near the Bulgarian coastal town of Balchik. In the middle of March representatives of wpd attended meetings with the ministries of energy, innovation and environment in Bulgaria. Wpd plans to invest in wind power in Bulgaria - their initial strategy is to start with two projects with a combined capacity of 75-100 MW. According to different market estimates this should be an investment to the tune of 90 - 120 mln. Euro.
"The projects are in an advanced stage of development and are around the villages of Sokolovo and Trigortsi. During our period of activity in Bulgaria we have acquired the necessary permits for construction and we have developed the full technical documentation. This includes geology, geodesy, connection to the grid and many other research documents needed to fulfill such projects. Due to the rapid technological development in our sector we are currently actioning a change in the parameters for the wind turbines, wherein we plan to implement more effective turbines with a modern design," elaborated for "Capital" the managing director of wpd Bulgaria Marin Iliev.
From the investment proposal, which was submitted to the municipality of Balchik last summer, as well as from a message of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water - Varna, it becomes clear that they are planning a total of 16 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 96 MW. Each turbine is with the capacity of 6 MW (double the power of the ones currently available in the country) and height of the tower of 130 m. and width of the rotor of 165 m.
The Bulgarian investment company is "Wind park Dobrudzha 2" and its sole holder is wpd. The German company has a myriad of companies registered in Bulgaria through which they are most likely working on different projects. One such is "Wind park Izgrev" ltd., which works on projects in the region of Dobrich.For now the company doesn't have concrete plans for offshore wind. The big problem for the development of such capacities is the lack of legislation in the sector. But the subject of development of wind energy, including offshore wind, is already being discussed in the energy commission of the National Assembly of Bulgaria and from wpd's side they are adamant that they can contribute to authorities in the creation of the necessary regulatory framework.
What are wpd's plans in Bulgaria?
Martin Iliev (M.I.): wpd has been present in Bulgaria for more than 10 years now. We have a portfolio of projects at different stages of development, a highly qualified team of specialists, the expertise, the reputation of a strategic investor, and we have invested around 5 mln. Lv. in the development of projects since 2007 onwards. And we now think that the time is ripe for our intended projects to be realized.
You announced a massive project, including offshore wind in Romania. Do you see any such potential in Bulgaria?Tjark Schaper (T.Sch.): It is too early to say. We have just started our investigations. In reality, the development of the region began 2 years ago in Romania and conditions are similar here. Which is why I can say, with a fair amount of confidence, that there will be an opportunity to develop offshore wind in Bulgaria.
M.I.: Preliminary studies need to be done. Only after that can an answer be given to the question "are we going to invest here in offshore wind or not?" or "are we going to continue to grow along the Black Sea coast or are we going to remain in Romania?" This is a drawn out process and it will take some time. The positive thing is that in our meetings with the ministries in Bulgaria there was a positive attitude towards RES energy sources and an underlined interest in the development of wind energy projects at sea.
Andreas Chollet (A.Ch): Yes, this was the most important thing that we wanted to see. What is the opinion of the ministries towards offshore wind - are they interested or not? The answer has always been: "Yes. If you showcase a serious investment interest towards offshore wind we are ready to take you on and work together."
MI: New legislation for the development of offshore projects in Bulgaria is needed and this is one of the subjects on which we will be working alongside with our colleagues from the industry and administration for the next couple of months. Undoubtedly there is a very good perspective for the development of offshore wind on the Black Sea and in the long run, with the necessary technologies, we will witness the growth of the sector.
T.Sch.: After the talks we had with the ministries we feel very motivated. For the moment our goal is to conduct in-depth studies, on the basis of which we will then decide whether to develop offshore wind projects along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
At what stage is the offshore wind project in Romania?T.Sch.: At the moment we are already working on location, and we have applied for the development of two separate locations in the Black Sea. We are holding discussions with the network operator and local authorities in Romania. We are also taking part in discussions for the legislative projects, which will be used to regulate investments in offshore wind. We are gathering a team and we have offices in Bucharest and Iasi.
Since you are actively assisting the Romanian government in developing legislation for offshore wind, will you also be offering help to the Bulgarian government?T.Sch.: We will offer our expertise. We will remain open for the opportunity for dialogue and we will offer information on what other countries have needed in the past.
M.I.: Since the wpd group is active in different markets and in more than 28 countries all over the world, it can suggest working solutions to the Bulgarian authorities.
T.Sch.: For instance, we can indicate how the process should unfold from the moment a permit is granted. This way there will be a clear picture as to what needs to be done and when - a clear time frame.
In your meetings with Bulgarian ministries did you discuss any specific projects, which you can realize in Bulgaria?M.I.: We presented a portfolio of projects that are at different stages of development. We stated that we wanted to increase our contacts with the institutions, so that we can find the best methods for overcoming administrative hurdles and expediting the process of connecting new RES projects to the grid. We believe that we were met with a positive attitude and we took on the commitment to present more detailed information and our concrete proposals.
A.Ch.: We see some problems with legislation and regulations and want to work together with the government in order to find the best solutions for them, so that the sector as a whole can become more lucrative for investors. This will in turn further push the development of Bulgaria.
Does this mean that you are now seeing an opportunity for a faster development compared to before?A.Ch.: At least we hope so (he laughs).
M.I.: The atmosphere is positive. We recognize that within the framework of different formats and discussions we could provide constructive suggestions for changes in the Bulgarian legislation and in an open dialogue we could find the best working solutions for the sector. Colleagues from different associations such as the Association for Production, Storage and Trading of Electricity (APSTE) and Bulgarian Wind Energy Association (BWEA) have already summarized some suggestions and I believe that this will help optimize the process for the development of RES projects and create a better investment climate in the country.
We can summarize - the investors are here, they were well received by all the various administrations and they are ready to widen their scope of activities in Bulgaria.
Do you expect any challenges relating to the connection to the network and infrastructure as a whole? We do know that this is a serious problem for RES investors in the country.M.I.: We participated alongside other producers of green energy in a work meeting at the ESO and there we discussed the development of the network in a long-term plan.
What benefits do you see in the development of the RES sector in the Balkans?T.Sch.: Bulgaria is a large energy exporter. This is good for the future and a big opportunity for the development of hydrogen.
M.I.: As far as I understand, this is a strategy for the future, so that the country can maintain its leading role in energy exports on the Balkans. The only way to maintain this position is with the development of RES.
A.Ch.: If you have a look at Germany - we cannot produce all of the energy we need, which is why we need to import. For us, from a European perspective, some parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans are a potential source of energy. Which is why we are active in many different countries, because we believe there is big potential for energy exports towards Central Europe. This can be achieved with direct transport, but also through hydrogen or other methods.