Central Asia’s largest wind farm built by a Chinese firm is nearly complete in south Kazakhstan despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The landmark project demonstrates how the Belt and Road Initiative is transforming Kazakhstan’s power matrix and bringing green energy to the country.
Located on a hill-surrounding steppe near the city of Zhanatas in the Zhambyl Region, the wind farm, with a capacity of 100 megawatts, will power 1 million Kazakh homes with clean electricity when all 40 wind turbines are slated to be installed by the end of this month.
Each turbine tower weighs over 300 tons, and is nearly 150 meters tall, comparable to a 50-storey building. The 60-meter-long blades cover an area as big as the London Eye observation wheel.
Upon completion, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 300,000 tons annually.
The construction began in July 2019 and is now at its final stage. Full production capacity is expected to be reached in June this year despite the impact of COVID-19, Guo Qiang, general director of the Zhanatas wind power plant, told Xinhua.
“Chinese engineers are mainly involved in the installation of equipment. Most of the work is carried out by Kazakh construction firms. The cooperation between Chinese and Kazakh colleagues is based on equality, mutual learning and mutual trust,” said Guo.
The windmill is one of the first batch of key energy projects under the China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation framework, with the largest installed capacity in Central Asia and a total investment of around 150 million U.S. dollars.
The plant, with China Power International Holding and Visor Kazakhstan as shareholders, is co-funded by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (Almaty) and Green Climate Fund.
Almas Chukin, managing partner of Visor Kazakhstan, said that the launch of the Zhanatas wind farm will ease power shortage in the south of the country, with 70 percent of electricity nationwide generated in the coal-rich north.
He said that a big energy demand in the south has forced the Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company to build three lines to transport electricity from north to south, which is very expensive.
“The Zhanatas new wind power plant is a big part of Kazakhstan’s energy solution to the north-south imbalance and over-dependence on coal use in power generation,” Chukin said.
Kazakhstan is boosting the implementation of renewable energy projects. At a meeting on May 26, 2021, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pledged to increase the share of green energy to 15 percent by 2030 in the total electricity consumption.
According to Chukin, China makes significant contributions to the development of renewable energy in Kazakhstan. Over the past four years, of the 1,500 megawatt new renewable energy capacity in Kazakhstan, two thirds were built along with Chinese partners.