There are few sunny days in the Russian republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the Russian Far East, but the strong sunshine makes up the scarcity of light.
"Contrary to the belief of the eternally lingering darkness, solar insulation in Russia's Far East is approximately 810 kW per square meter per year. This is impressive, taking into account the adverse climate conditions," said Roman Chuikov from Solarinntech LLC, ? major Russian PV module producer and supplier.
Currently, four solar plants with a total capacity of 90 kW operate in the region. The first solar power plant was built in the settlement of Batamaij in 2011 and was upgraded in 2012. The second one was launched in the village of Juchugeij and, this year, another two new photovoltaic installations appeared in the far-flung settlements of Dulgalax and Kudu-Kiuelj.
Besides solar, Sakha has been ramping up wind power capacity, adding this year 40 kW, produced by two new wind farms in the settlement of Bykov, to the until now available 250 kW from the single wind farm in Tiksi, built in 2007.
The solar and wind installations in the settlemens saved between 9.3 and 16.2 tons of expensive diesel fuel last year. In the entire Kamchatka Region, energy exclusively derived from wind farms has replaced an estimated 300,000 tons of fuel per year.
To further boost solar power development in the region, Yakut authorities last May passed a number of measures aimed at spurring wholesale solar energy.
"The new RES legislation stimulates the development of renewable energy sources through pay rates and the scope of electricity generation. This is seen as a strong booster for renewables development, especially solar and wind energy," Alekseij Kaplun, deputy director general for Strategy and Investments at JSC RAO Energy System of East, told pv-magazine.
JSC RAO is the largest supplier of electricity and heat in the Russian Far East. Its main activities are the production and distribution of electric and heat energy, the development of generation capacity and alternative energy. The group has built all the aforementioned solar and wind energy facilities.
"Considering that the region's remoteness from the nearest traditional fossil fuels and the efficiency of renewable energy sources, the focus on them, especially solar and wind power, will be rising," Chuikov is convinced.
Indeed, the Far Eastern power company is resolutely pursuing new green projects in very a adverse environment that directly affects the project planning and timetables.
"Adapting to the conditions, we use light materials that are easy to transport and can be assembled quickly during the short summer," Kaplun added. For example, in the Kamchatka Region, we installed a wind power facility that has a self-lifting mechanism."
A shortage of skilled personnel able to manage and maintain the installations has also caused headaches.
"Therefore we are trying to automate the processes as much as possible. In fact, we are currently working out an automated system that will maximally decrease the need of human interruption in the processes," Kaplun said.
To tackle the persisting cold corroding the machinery and RES facilities, the company is aiming to produce a new technology enabling the equipment to withstand the extreme temperatures.
All of these efforts are exerted to significantly cut down isolated Sakhas dependency on fossil fuels that over the next 10 years would cost the region some $310 million.
"As those kinds of fuels in the isolated areas like the Far East are very expensive, the increasing solar and wind power generation allows a significant reduction in costs. Therefore the expansion of renewables is imminent," Kaplun added.
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