In the last few years, companies from different European countries have been competing to open wind farms in Serbia. Russia and China are not interested in this area either.
By June 6 this year, the Ministry of Mining and Energy has issued a total of 34 energy permits, which are a necessary step towards building turbines that convert wind energy into electricity.
That doesn’t mean they’re all already working. The contract with Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), a state-owned company that has an obligation to buy electricity obtained from renewable sources, currently has eight privately owned companies.
Although it is much more environmentally and economically profitable than conventional energy sources, experts point out that Serbia still uses only a small part of the potential of wind energy.
Utilizing as much green energy capacity as possible becomes especially important at a time when Serbian officials are announcing an uncertain winter amid the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German turbines in Serbia
The Nordex Group from Germany announced on June 13th that it had received an order from Serbia to build 105 megawatts of turbines for the wind farm, bringing the company to the Serbian market.
According to a statement on the company’s website, Nordex will deliver 22 turbines for the Krivača wind farm in the spring of 2023.
The Krivača wind farm is located near the Serbian-Romanian border, about 130km east of Belgrade. According to a statement from Nordex Group, this wind farm was developed by the Austrian manufacturer Ivica, and in the future it will be managed by the Serbian MK Group and the Slovenian ALFI Green Energy Fund.
“After it is put into operation at the end of 2023, ‘Krivača’ will produce 310 gigawatts of clean electricity per year. That represents approximately one percent of electricity consumption in Serbia,” Nordeks states.
MK Group, whose owner is businessman Miodrag Kostić, operates on the Serbian market in the field of agriculture, tourism and production of electricity from wind and biomass.
In the field of renewable energy sources, there is a daughter company MK Fintel Wind, which has already built three wind farms and is nearing the end of the fourth.
The company’s official website states that one wind farm was built in Kula, about 160 kilometers northwest of Belgrade, and two near Vrsac, about eighty kilometers northeast of the Serbian capital. As it is stated, the construction of nine more wind farms is planned.
Fintel Energija a.d. is majority owned by the Italian company Fintel Energia Group SpA.
RFE sent questions to Fintel Energija regarding this topic, but the answer did not reach the conclusion of the text.
The largest wind farm in Serbia
For now, the largest wind farm in Serbia – Chibuk 1, with a capacity of 158 megawatts – was opened in October 2019 on the edge of Deliblato Sands, about fifty kilometers northeast of Belgrade.
Chibuk 1 is owned by the Balkan Wind Power Project, which is wholly owned by Tesla Wind, a joint venture founded by Masdar – Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (60 per cent), Finnish energy infrastructure development company Taaleri Energia (30 per cent) and DEG. the KfW investment arm of the German Development Bank (10 percent).
The value of the project was 300 million euros, and it was realized with the financial support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The ceremonial commissioning of the wind farm was also attended by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić. On the opening day, the company Vetroelektrane Balkana was the target of criticism, because it banned access to the representatives of several independent media houses without any explanation.
Balkan wind farms have not responded to RFE’s inquiry regarding Serbia’s potential in wind farms.
Why is Serbia not using its potential?
Until now, Serbia has not made significant progress in the field of exploiting all the potentials offered by wind energy, said Zvezdan Kalmar, coordinator for energy and climate change at the NGO Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR), in an interview with Radio Free Europe (RFE).
“We have significant potentials, however, when you look at the daily balances on an annual level, you can see that a very small percentage comes from wind or sun. There are projects that work, mostly in Banat, but it is necessary to do so as soon as possible. he is still developing a lot of projects, “Kalmar said.
One of the reasons for that is, according to him, the Government of Serbia continues to provide large subsidies for the extraction of coal, the dominant source of electricity in the country, which relies on 70 percent of production from thermal power plants (according to the Bankwatch network Environmental Protection Group in Central and Eastern Europe).
The Energy Community, the regulatory body of the European Union (EU), has repeatedly criticized Serbia for spending more subsidies on coal mining than it has invested in renewable energy sources.
Russia and China are looking for a way to the market
She announced the construction of a wind farm in Plandište is also the company Wind Park Plandište d.o.o., which is part of the company NIS MET ENERGOWIND, which is owned by NIS Petrol, majority owned by Russia, and the Swiss MET Renewables AG.
At the end of 2016, the Oil Industry of Serbia (NIS), which is majority owned by Russian Gazprom, announced the construction of the Plandište wind farm. Within that project, 34 wind generators should be built on the territory of the Municipality of Plandište, with a total capacity of 102 megawatts, the company announced at the time.
Wind Park did not answer for RSE when asked what stage this project is in.
However, this company is still not on the list of companies with which EPS has concluded an agreement on the purchase of electricity.
In October 2021, the Chinese Ambassador to Belgrade stated in a video conference organized by the Ministry of Mining and Energy of Serbia that “China and Serbia have a lot of potential for the development of clean energy.”
However, as they told Radio Free Europe (RFE) earlier in the competent Ministry of Mining and Energy, so far there has been no concrete cooperation when it comes to wind energy.
The Chinese company “Huayi Wind Energy”, which is engaged in the production and sale of systems for the use of wind power and the design of wind farms, has announced that it will open its representative office in Belgrade in 2016.
However, the company is not registered in the business register in Serbia.
Benefits of wind energy
Unlike thermal power plants or nuclear power plants, installing wind turbines is much easier and faster, says Zvezdan Kalmar.
According to him, it does not take more than three years for the entire project and obtaining all the necessary plans and permits.
“Thermal power plants have been under construction for at least ten years, nuclear power plants have been under construction for over twenty years. The Kostolac B3 thermal power plant has been under construction since 2005. During that time, you design, install and install the wind turbine.” .
Another benefit, he adds, is that wind turbines can be gradually upgraded.
“You don’t have to have 60 wind turbines in one place at once, but you can build 10 first and then build new ones,” Kalmar explains.
The ecological aspect of this way of energy production is also significant.
“There is a rumor that wind turbine propellers are not recyclable, however, the damage caused by wind turbine production is much less than from any conventional energy source,” Kalmar underlines.
Procedure for starting a wind farm
For the construction of the wind farm, it is necessary for the companies to prepare technical documentation and obtain location conditions, as well as the energy permit issued by the Ministry of Mining and Energy. In addition, the construction and use permits are required for the construction itself.
However, that does not mean that with all these conditions, they can immediately produce and sell electricity. For that, it is necessary for wind power plants to enter the system of the Electric Power Industry of Serbia, which concludes agreements on subsidies with companies.
According to the regulations, EPS is obliged to buy electricity produced from renewable energy sources.
According to the available data on the EPS website, that company has contracts with eight privately owned companies that produce electricity from wind energy and from which EPS buys the produced electricity.
Zvezdan Kalmar believes that the public should definitely be involved in construction projects. Although, as he says, it exists on paper, these practices are often deviated from.
“We see that in the ‘Jadar’ projects run by Rio Tinto or the Bor mines, where the mines open without a Spatial Plan, the same thing is unfortunately happening here,” says Kalmar.
He warns that such a practice can be counterproductive in the public, at a time when it is necessary to raise public awareness of the importance of renewable energy sources.
The state to support citizens as producers
In April 2021, Serbia passed the Law on Renewable Energy Sources. In addition to regulating this area, the new law will enable citizens to produce and sell electricity obtained from clean energy.
In this new legal framework, Zvezdan Kalmar sees an opportunity for the state, instead of foreign investors, to support its citizens more.
“In that sense, I think it is a good model as it was done in Germany, where development banks supported citizens to raise loans and create eco-energy villages, and that something similar should be done in Serbia,” Kalmar said.
According to him, Serbia could establish a fund or bank in which citizens could raise funds for the construction of wind turbines.
Wind is the most common among sustainable energy sources
According to the data of the state company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), most of the energy obtained in Serbia from renewable sources comes from wind energy.
Electricity obtained from wind farms and parks accounted for 62.07 percent of the total energy produced from renewable sources, according to the latest available data from the EPS Annual Report for 2020.
However, renewables compared to that external “dirty sources” are still underrepresented, while Serbia still relies mostly on coal.
Serbia is a signatory to the EU Declaration on the Green Agenda, which the countries of the Western Balkans signed in November 2020 at the Summit in Sofia.
Thus, they committed themselves to complete decarbonisation by 2050, ie the cessation of electricity production from coal and the transition to renewable sources, writes Radio Free Europe.