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Lithuania May Partly Replace Nuclear Power With Wind, Lobby Says

An expansion of wind power in Lithuania may help the country to improve its energy independence and offset a shortfall caused by closure of nuclear capacity.

Installed wind power capacity is likely double to 500 megawatts by 2015, five years ahead of schedule, paving the way for energy independence without nuclear power, according to Lithuania’s wind energy association.

Last month, more than 60 percent of voters in a non-binding referendum rejected construction of a nuclear reactor that’s intended to replace the Ignalina atomic plant. Closing that plant under an agreement that followed accession to the European Union triggered an energy deficit in 2009, Ignalina having previously provided as much as 85 percent of Lithuania’s power.

As a result, electricity imports surged to a record 75 percent of power use in the second quarter of this year, prompting the outgoing government to list energy independence as a key priority.

“The newly elected government will have to make a new energy strategy, where onshore and offshore wind power possibly could take the place of nuclear power,” Aleksandras Paulauskas, the wind association’s executive director, said today by e-mail.

While plans by developers to build as much as 4,000 megawatts of onshore wind capacity are unlikely to be realized, new cross-border cables will help feed as much as 1,000 megawatts of wind power into the national grid, with a 700-megawatt link to Sweden and one of 500 megawatts to Poland, Paulauskas said. Both are expected to become operational in December 2015, along with a new 250-megawatt generator at the Kruonis pumped storage hydropower plant. They can be used by public utility Lietuvos Energija AB to offset wind-power fluctuations, he said.

Last year, wind turbines provided 0.47 terawatt-hours of electricity, or 4.5 percent of Lithuania’s total power, installed capacity having more than tripled to 179 megawatts since 2006, according data from grid operator Litgrid and the country’s wind power associations.

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