A new wind farm being constructed on the shores of Russia’s Arkhangelsk region will be one of the largest such wind power plants in Europe and have will generate more energy than all of Russia’s current wind farms combined.
Mezhregionsoyuzenergo closed joint-stock company and the German SoWiTec have partnered on the project’s construction. The latter has been building similar wind farms around the world from Europe to Latin America.
It was the Germans that chose the White Sea coast, where the wind speed is 7.5 meters per second (16 miles per hour) and blows steadily. Even in areas with moderate wind speeds of 5 meters per second, one square kilometer of wind turbines can produce hundreds of millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.
The seacoasts are particularly well suited for such projects, which is why one of Europe’s largest wind farms is being built in Arkhangelsk. During the first stage, its fifty power generators will produce 150-200 MW. That’s enough to cover the energy needs of a city of 100,000 people.
The project will cost about 16 billion rubles ($500 billion). Experts believe that wind farms can help solve some of the environmental and energy problems of the region by partially replacing outdated equipment and providing fuel for this remote northern region.
The launch of the project is planned for 2015 to 2016. Gaining approval for the project, the partners said, may take longer than usual, because this is the first such facility in Russia.
The wind farm will pay for itself in 15 years in Russia, compared with 10.7 years in Europe, since the project is not being financed either by the federal or the regional government.
“These projects are designed for the long term,” said Yuri Shulgin, the executive director of Mezhregionsoyuzenergo. “For the time being, it is more like a testing ground for Russia.”
The partners are confident that the project will fully pay for itself. Traditional energy sources are becoming more expensive, and by 2030 the Ministry of Economics predicts prices for the consumer will increase fivefold. At the same time, Soviet-era power plants are quickly becoming obsolete.
According to experts, the potential of wind energy in Russia today is about 6.2 trillion kWh per year, which is several times greater than the country’s total current electricity production.
There are working wind farms that have been in operation for a long time. The largest of them is the Kulikovo wind farm in Kaliningrad oblast, which produces 5.1 MW.
The first wind turbines were built there in 1998, then in 2002 the Kaliningrad regional administration, along with the Russian Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Denmark, added a few more wind turbines, making Kulikov the largest wind farm in Russia.
In addition, the Tyupkildy wind farm in Bashkortostan (2.2 MW), Kalmyk wind farm (1 MW), and Marposadsky wind farm in the Chuvash Republic (capacity 0.2 MW) are hooked into the electrical grid.
Wind-power stations not in the grid include the Anadyrskaya station in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (2.5 MW), the Zapolyarnaya station in the Republic of Komi (1.5 MW), the Nikolskaya station on Bering Lake in Kamchatka (1.2 MW), and the Markinskaya station in Rostov oblast (capacity 0.3 MW).
Most of them were built in the late ‘90s or early 2000s. There are small wind turbines that mainly provide for the needs of companies located in Murmansk, Leningrad, Arkhangelsk, Saratov, and Astrakhan oblasts.
The total capacity of wind power plants in Russia is only 17-18 MW.
In 2009, the Russian government approved a plan to increase the share of renewable energy in overall energy consumption up from its current 0.8 percent to 4.5 percent by 2020.
By comparison, European energy strategies envision an increase in the share of “green” energy up to at least 20 percent; some European nations will pursue plans to attain a 50-60 percent share. However, Russia is unlikely to be able to meet even this modest renewable energy target.
In early December, the RusHydro hydroelectricity company reported that the share of renewable energy sources in the country’s energy balance would not exceed 4 percent by 2020.
“The installed capacity of wind power plants may increase from 50 megawatts to 300 megawatts; the capacity of geothermal power plants from 70 megawatts to 200 megawatts; the capacity of mini-hydro power plants from 10 megawatts to 200 megawatts; and the capacity of solar plants from 1 megawatt to 300 megawatts,” said Mikhail Kozlov, director for innovation and renewable energy at RusHydro.
Other Russian renewable energy projects were discussed in mid-November, at a special roundtable session in Moscow. Fortum presented some of its large-scale projects, including the project to create power plants that run on household waste (although, technically, they cannot be considered renewable energy sources), as well as woodchips and olive pits.
Fortum representatives insist that Russia has enormous potential for developing these solutions; the country accumulates some 40 million tons of household waste annually, of which 90 percent is taken to dumps, 3 percent is burned and only 7 percent is processed.
According to Fortum spokesman Sergei Chizhov, one of the obstacles to the advancement of such technologies is the underdeveloped regulatory framework in this sector – especially the lack of a “green tariff.” Such tariffs would involve special waste treatment subsidies that would form an economic mechanism and make the renewable energy sector more appealing to investors.
Overall, Russia is catastrophically short of its own innovation in renewable energy.
“This is the result of the country not having a renewable energy market,” says Georgy Gogolev, head of the Russian Venture Company program for attracting demand for innovative solutions.
“Innovation emerges as long as there is a market, as long as new solutions can be marketed,” Gogolev said. “There is no market in Russia because there is no law on renewable energy; and we have no subsidies, unlike other countries. There is no unsubsidized energy industry.”
We regulate rates and subsidize (in one form or another) oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear power and transportation; and we have cross-subsidies for the utility sector. That’s what Russia has,” he said.
“However, it is rare even for developed nations to not subsidize the energy industry, because energy is an essential part of the infrastructure,” Gogolev added. “Another problem is that we can’t offer smaller producers access to the power grid. Germany has passed a law that forces distributing networks to provide access even to offshore wind plants; but in Russia, even if you build a wind or solar power plant next to a distribution station, you will never be able to get connected.”
Gogolev believes that a political decision must be made to change the situation.
“If the politicians want to make it happen, then changes will be introduced within the next few years.” The U.S., China, Germany and India – the world’s leading consumers of renewable energy – are superb examples of states that have mustered political will in this area.”
“But Russia doesn’t play these ‘games,’” says Gogolev. “We have no competencies, no solutions and no one is really interested. There were two attempts to make laws on renewable energy, but both failed. After the latest bill was rejected, some of its provisions were introduced as amendments to the Law on Electricity in November 2008.”
“Although there is no separate law on renewable energy, the Russian government is now entitled to introduce a scheme to subsidize renewable energy projects,” he said. “The government is working on such a scheme now, but the question is whether it will be operational, how it will work and whether generating companies will have access to distribution networks … This would call for serious changes in the energy market as a whole.”