Wind power in Mongolia

The vast mongolian steppe sits atop an elevated plateau in Central Asia in the heart of the north-Asian wind channel, resulting in world-class wind and renewable energy potential. Mix this potential with the lowest population density in the world – half of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar – and a huge landmass nearly the area of Alaska and you have the perfect recipe for large-scale renewable energy generation.

Mongolia is estimated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to have good-to-excellent wind resources of over 2,550 terawatt-hours per year. When including moderate-level wind resources – or those suitable for rural power applications – this estimate increases to over 8,123 terawatt-hours per year.

The good-to-excellent level represents utility-scale development, with measurements at 30 meters and assuming 500-kilowatt turbines. For Mongolia, wind potential at utility scale runs from Class 3 to Class 6, with more than 130,000 square kilometers of land falling in the 6.4 to 7.1 meters-per-second range. The South Gobi region in Mongolia alone is estimated to have over 300,000 megawatts of wind electric potential.

Newcom Group, a leading Mongolian investment and asset management company, became a pioneer in Mongolian wind energy in 2004. Seeking to tap into this vast renewable resource potential, the company began its own site and resource analysis and started working with the government to create the right environment for investment. Because of these efforts, Mongolia’s Renewable Energy Program was created in 2005 and the Mongolian Parliament adopted a Renewable Energy Law in 2007, setting out a framework for development of the industry and tariff methodologies.

Newcom Group negotiated the first power purchase agreement with the government. It set up a subsidiary, Clean Energy, which will build Mongolia’s first wind farm, which will also be its first independent power producer and the first new-generation capacity added to the country’s grid in almost 30 years.

Clean Energy’s flagship project is the 50-megawatt Salkhit Wind Farm being developed about 70 kilometers southeast of Ulaanbaatar. Salkhit appropriately means "windy mountain" in Mongolian, and to see and feel the site, one immediately knows how it got its name and why it was chosen for Mongolia’s first wind farm.

A supply agreement for the project’s turbines and towers was signed with General Electric on Dec. 17 for the estimated $100 million project. With GE’s Vice Chairman John Rice in attendance, GE and Newcom also announced that GE would be making a strategic investment in the project, thus raising the stakes and demonstrating its confidence in both the project and the potential for Mongolia to become a regional renewable energy powerhouse.

The Salkhit Wind Farm is expected to be fully commissioned by the end of 2012. At full operating capacity, it will be the third-largest power plant in the country and produce about 168.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, while avoiding 185,500 tons of CO2 emissions, and the use of 1.6 million tons of water and 150,000 tons of coal.

Newcom has also been collecting data for the last three years on 300,000 hectares of its property in the Gobi region. The firm is working to complete the technical and economic feasibility studies needed to build its next wind venture at 300 megawatts.

With a booming economy and energy-hungry neighbors across Asia, Mongolia is set to become the region’s renewable energy powerhouse. The benefit of connecting this vast potential to this enormous demand is clear. Mongolia will take advantage of the cheapest, cleanest and safest energy opportunities and power a renewable energy future.