During the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s grid operators were compelled to operate independently, going into “island mode.” This move was part of a broader strategy to disengage from the Russian grid and synchronize with the European Union’s grid. Despite the challenging circumstances, Ukraine managed to align its grid with Europe’s grid within a few weeks.
The process of synchronizing grids is a complex undertaking that demands precise alignment of frequency, phase, and voltage. Failing to achieve this alignment can result in grid failure and necessitate extensive repairs.
Despite the ongoing warfare, Ukraine’s grid operators successfully maintained grid stability and ensured uninterrupted power supply. They continue to work around the clock to respond to targeted attacks and to restore power to affected communities.
To protect their country, some grid operators have even joined the military. Ukraine had been dealing with the challenge of maintaining an aging grid even prior to the war, and the targeted attacks have worsened the situation.
Renewable energy can help Ukraine develop a more resilient energy system in two ways. First, Ukrainian solar energy diversifies energy sources, reducing dependence on fuels like diesel. Second, Ukrainian solar energy facilitates the decentralization of the grid, making the grid more resistant to extreme weather events and attacks.
The Ukrainian–American Solar Partnership
To enhance energy independence and resilience, Ukraine has partnered with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to incorporate more renewable energy sources into their energy mix.
This week, the US government announced that NREL is collaborating with USAID, the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy, and the Ukrainian Ministry for Communities to develop a pilot project for a microgrid. This pilot project aims to showcase the potential benefits of a solar photovoltaic-plus-storage system in enhancing resilience under current conditions.
NREL is offering technical expertise to determine the optimal size of the solar-plus-storage system based on the load requirements. Meanwhile, USAID will provide financial backing for the construction of the pilot project.
In addition, NREL has recently released solar resource information for Ukraine. This data provides details on the average sunlight received throughout the year, presented in a four-square-kilometer resolution. It forms the basis for various software platforms developed by NREL, which aid in sizing and designing solar and solar-plus-storage systems.
Ukraine’s immediate priority is to ensure electricity supply to critical facilities and provide power to residents during outages. The inclusion of solar power in diesel-generator-powered microgrids will help reduce fuel consumption and extend grid operation.