Ex-Soviet countries under pressure to go green By Michael Miller

The group from Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries donned hardhats to get a close look at one of America’s most accessible wind projects.

“They asked more questions about electric rates than any other group,” ACUA President Rick Dovey said. For the past few days, the snowbound delegation has been stuck in its hotel after this week’s blizzard canceled visits to the University of Delaware and tours of the region’s power grid.

The tour was organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce. “They’re all looking at getting into solar, wind power, biomass and other renewable energy,” said Jim Black, of the Clean Air Council, which served as liaison.

The five wind turbines project off the White Horse Pike is a popular destination for foreign dignitaries because of its proximity to Philadelphia and New York and its accessibility just a few steps from the road. The authority has hosted delegations from Sri Lanka, Japan, India, South Africa and the Baltic states.

Many countries in Eastern Europe, including Kazakhstan, rely on coal plants. But that country is under increasing pressure to go green, said Nurlan N. Jiyenbayev, director of ND & Co. Solar Energy based in Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan just passed a law requiring the use of more renewable sources of energy,” he said through an interpreter. Kazakhstan officials want to provide 5 percent of the nation’s energy needs through renewable resources by 2024. By comparison, New Jersey wants to provide 20 percent through renewable energy by 2020.

Eastern Europe has many options to meet this goal — from hydroelectric power to solar. But one is drawing particular attention. “Wind — unequivocally wind energy,” said Andrey Khokhlov, deputy director of EuroUkr Wind, based in Kiev, Ukraine. His company works on wind farms about 17 times the size of the Atlantic City project.

“Our investors are not interested in wind farms less than 100 megawatts,” he said. The five ACUA wind turbines produce a total of 7.5 megawatts.

Like in New Jersey, Ukraine offers government incentives to companies that generate renewable energy, said Oleh Dudkin, head of the secretariat for an energy panel in Ukraine.

Dudkin said he was impressed by the windmills’ automation and the authority’s efforts to capture renewable energy, such as its solar array and methane system.

The officials took photos and video of the authority’s presentation with handheld cameras and chatted quietly among themselves.

The authority’s operations room has a bank of 30-year-old electrical boards with dozens of colored lights that serve as a backup to the modern computers that track the plant systems, including solar and wind.

General Electric and the plant’s operator monitor the wind turbines remotely from California and Pennsylvania.

One plasma screen graphically illustrated the energy output from both systems and even tracked the sun’s position as it inched across the sky. The five windmills are named after the spouses of authority employees: Carol, K.C., Mary, Kathy and Diedre.

“Have you considered storing energy in the form of hydrogen fuel cells?” asked Vahe Odabashian, vice president of Armenian company H2 Economy.

“The way we do things, we want someone else to pay for it,” Dovey said.

A private company built the windmills on ACUA property in 2006 for about $13 million. A partner firm sells the energy back to the authority at a discounted rate.

“That’s a very good approach,” Odabashian replied. “If someone comes up with the money, give me a call. I’ll bring the fuel cells.”

By Michael Miller. MMiller@pressofac.com