Western Balkans see boom in solar energy but grids unprepared

(EurActiv, 20 Apr 2023) Western Balkan nations are seeing a boom in solar energy investment, which could help ease a power crisis that had threatened a shift away from coal, but industry officials say transmission systems are not prepared for new energy feeds.

North Macedonia’s Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi said investors have started to invest “quite furiously” in solar plants and that his country, which is a power importer, has become a regional hub for renewable energy sources.

Since 2021, solar parks with 139 Megawatt (MW) capacity have been built while up to 300 MW of new solar energy is planned to be produced by end-2023, which is enough to supply eight towns with electricity, said Marko Bislimovski, the president of North Macedonia’s Energy Regulatory Commission.

However, transmission and distribution grids are not prepared to absorb such sudden feeds of solar energy and need to expand in order to accept and balance the energy which is generated during daylight only, he said.

“Our grid can afford the transmission of about 1,300 MW of photovoltaic energy and distributive network has capacity for 700-800 MW while there is a plan for transmission of 5,000 MW,” Bislimovski said. “So we have problems.”

The other solution, though costly, is to store the electricity. Legislation was therefore amended to require investors to secure battery storage of electricity in areas where the grid is already booked.

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EurActiv, 20 Apr 2023: Western Balkans see boom in solar energy but grids unprepared