Wind power in Russia

Large-scale wind energy systems are suitable in Siberia and the Far East (east of Sakhalin Island, the south of Kamchatka, the Chukotka Peninsula, Vladivostok), the steppes along the Volga river, the northern Caucasus steppes and mountains and on the Kola Peninsula, where power infrastructure and major industrial consumers are in place.

At the end of 2009, total installed wind power capacity was only 9 MW. Major wind farms operate at Kalmytskaya (2 MW), Zapolyarnaya (1.5 MW), Kulikovskaya (5.1 MW), Tyupkildi (2.2 MW) and Observation Cape (2.5 MW).

Feasibility studies are being carried out on the Kaliningradskaya (50 MW) and the Leningradskaya (75 MW) wind farms. There are about 150 MW of wind projects in Kalmykia and in Krasnodar Krai.

Russia is unique due to its unified power system that connects 70 localized energy systems and allows the transfer of power across the country. This is a unique situation that could allow the siting of renewable energy projects in some remote locations with access to transmission facilities which can deliver power to more densely populated areas.

The overwhelming size of Russia also implies a strong development potential for all renewable energy resources.

Russia has excellent potential for wind power generation. An attempt to utilize just 25 percent of its total potential would yield some 175,000 MW of power. The highest wind energy potential is concentrated along seacoasts, in the vast territories of steppes and in the mountains. 

A planned 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm scheduled to come online in 2010 will be the first ever to service the Autonomous Republic and Russian Federation. The deal was signed by Czech Export Bank, CHKDNOV Energo, the government of Kalmykia, and Falcon Capital, a Czech corporation and the principal investor in the project.

The total capacity of the initial wind farm is 150 MW with an estimated cost of $320 million. According to the agreement, Falcon will install the first 50 MW generational capacity, and will install an additional 100 MW generational capacity by the end of 2010.

Renewable energy producers are lining up to invest billions of dollars in wind power projects in Russia, though Russian power generation has long been dominated by hydro-carbons, nuclear and hydro-electric schemes.

Russia’s centralized power systems cover only one third of the country’s territory, leaving more than 20 million people without mains electricity supply.

Russia’s South, North West and the Far East are among the areas poorly connected to the power grid, but their coastline offers huge potential for wind power.

Canada’s Greta Energy plans to invest up to €250 million in its first wind farm, on Russia’s south coast, next year. And the company hopes to make a return on investment in about 7 years with Gennady Ermolenko, Regional Director at Greta Energy, saying Russia has great wind power potential.

“There’s the energy commission, the European energy commission. So they make predictions what to wait from what country. So, for Russian Federation and other Soviet countries, they estimate that we could take up more than 15% of World wind market.”

Russia’s RusHydro is the leading domestic developer. Earlier last year it signed a deal with Japanese investors to build a $100 million wind farm off Vladivostok. Gordon Edge, Chairman at the British Wind Energy Association says one of the benefits of wind power is that generation costs are predictable.

“Fuel is for free. So once you set it up, you know exactly what it costs, which is one of the benefits that isn’t recognized very much.”

Russia plans to build enough wind farms to supply 7 Gigawatts of power by 2020, which is sufficient for several regions. According to the state program on use of renewables, green energy should make up 4.5% of the country’s energy balance by then.

As the world’s largest producer of gas, and one of the worlds major producers of oil and coal, Russia isn’t generally seen as being at the forefront of the global thrust towards greater use of renewable energy sources.

There is a good reason for this – Russia ranks amongst the world’s top oil, gas and coal producers, with reserves of all which most of the rest of the world would envy. But it has a downside. Russia is one of the world most inefficient users of energy, and with the world increasingly looking to promote renewable energy, it means that Russia’s renewable energy sector hasn’t been as prominent as those elsewhere.

That outlook is slowly beginning to change with a range of projects across Russia looking to promote wind turbines, geothermal power, water power, and even solar energy.

But it doesn’t mean things are easy for the pioneers of Russia’s renewable energy renaissance, with legislative hurdles, financing problems, artificially cheap mainstream sources of energy, and a general public perception that Russia has so much hydrocarbon based energy that renewable energy doesn’t need to be a focus just yet. Despite this backdrop corporate and political leaders are increasingly preparing for a future where renewable energy is a far greater part of the energy mix than it currently is.

The natural environment provides Russia with possibly the world’s best scope for making use of the potential of renewable energy. Between the vast acreages of vegetation which could conceivably become biofuel raw materials, and some of the worlds largest virtually untapped snow fed rivers which could be harnessed further for hydro power, there’s also the geothermal energy potential of active tectonic zones in the far east, a belt across the country which could support solar power generation, and much of the same which could support wind power generation.

Oleg Popel, a renewable energy expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes that the potential depends on the region, and that in some areas a mix of renewable energy types is likely to be better than one variety alone, but that taken as a whole, Russia has massive renewable potential.

“Russia is a big country with various climatic conditions. It largely depends on the region we are talking about. Transbaikalia and Yakutia have a lot of sunny days, seaside areas are rich in strong winds, while Kamchatka and the Kuriles are known for their geothermal sources. A lot of Russia’s regions have favorable conditions for efficient use of biomass energy gained from waste timber conversion and agricultural waste conversion, etc. The energy of small rivers, sea tides on the Kola Peninsula, and the Sea of Okhotsk also have good prospects. In summer we could use the energy of sun while during colder months wind could provide for the necessary energy. A combination of, say, solar panels and windmills could be a good choice in some regions.”

Renewable energy currently comprises just 1% of Russia’s energy output, with the government planning to increase this to 4.5% by 2020, in the face of estimates suggesting that up to 30% of Russia’s energy demand could come from renewable sources.

That compares poorly with many international counterparts. The European Union is expecting to get 11.5% of its energy from renewable sources in 2010, rising to 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030. In Canada the figure varies between 3.5% and 15% depending on the province, with the US figure varying between 5% and 30% depending on the state. Even fellow BRIC, India, is getting an estimated 10% of its energy from renewable sources.

Russia currently has four major geothermal power stations in Kamchatka for which expansion proposals are being developed. There is currently 80 megawatts capacity from these plants with plans to expand this beyond 120 megawatts. Russia also has smaller geothermal plants in the Stavropol region and the Kurile islands.