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Friday, October 24, 2008

Reflection over the power electric grids in the Baltic region

Recently I have been studying the maps of the electric power grids in the Baltic sea area and found an interesting report published by www.eksponente.lt, a Lithuanian company dealing with scientific innovations in the field of energy. The report on the whole has to do with wind energy development, but a large part of it was dedicated to the development of the electric grids. The authors were a bit desperate about the Baltic states being a part of the EU and at the same time a part of the common electric grid with Russia and the CIS (remaining since USSR times):

(c) www.eksponente.lt

The map shows also the planned electric connections 1000 MWt each on the bottom of the Baltic sea that do not exist yet - one from the Lithuanian coast and one from Poland. These 2 bridges are planned to be built by the time Visaginas NPP would start functioning (estimated around 2016 or later) in order to export electricity to Sweden.
Looking at this project from the point of rationality, it is obvious that an onshore electric line is easier and cheaper to build and maintain. Lithuanian coast is 330 km from Sweden, that from Kaliningrad region is 280 km (measured on Google Earth map). That makes 50 km difference - meaning the second variant will be cheaper. Of course, it is not only economy but also politics that matter - the Baltic states are traditionally not so Russia-friendly and would prefer to have an energy bridge of their own, in order to be more integrated into the European Union's energy system. On the other hand, this will not make them less dependent from Russian energy supply. The EU forces Lithuania to close the Ignalina power plant that supplies more then 70% of the country's electricity. A new Visaginas power plant is about to be built on the means of 4 parties in the project, 3 Baltic countries and Poland. There is so far no clear decision on the construction of that plant.
While at the same time Russian Baltic NPP in Kaliningrad is planned, agreed upon and about to start building. This plant will be about 2 GWt in capacity. Being located just on the crossroads of the Baltic region, it can securely supply clean and cheap electricity to both East and West neighbors, and help even more to integrate the electric grids of that part of the Baltic coast with the opposite shore. Another important factor is that it will be built quicker then Visaginas on the place of old Ignalina, and start entering the European energy market earlier. Especially in conditions of world energy crisis, the decision to refuse such a proposal because of political reasons sounds stupid, IMHO.
It's not only my opinion, though.

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