Future of solar bright in Russia

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The expansion of solar energy in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will see "an unprecedented growth" in the short term, according to a new report by IBCentre, a U.K. and Russia-based research and consulting organization that focuses, among other things, on the field of sustainable energy development in Eastern Europe and the CIS.

The research group’s findings are good news for the solar industry despite anticipated reforms in Russia’s power sector. The country’s Energy Ministry has narrowed the scope of RES generation capacity until 2020.

IBCentre has issued a particularly bright forecast for solar expansion in Russia and other CIS countries for 2014, pointing out that renewable energy investors have been increasingly interested in the Russian market since RES legislation foreseeing a favorable determination of price for renewable energy capacity went into effect in 2013.

The new regulations assure investors a return on their investments as well as so-called investment premiums.

An additional factor that boosts the prospects for Russian solar is its advantage over the wind and hydro sectors, according to the report. Specifically, solar plants are required by law to use at least 50% of locally produced components, and Russia’s wind facility production is lagging compared to its solar component output,” the IBCentre research found.

Among other CIS countries, rapid solar expansion in 2014 is expected in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus and especially in Ukraine, which, according to the research company, has favorable solar legislation, including a generous feed-in tariff system.

IBCentre estimates that implemented solar projects will be worth more than $35 million in 2014 and up to $1.6 billion by 2020. Currently, Russia’s RES market is estimated at between $11.2 billion and $13.5 billion.

However, the Russian Energy Ministry has lowered its renewables expansion estimates for 2020 and now expects RES investments in the next six years to amount to just over $13 billion rather than the previously projected $15 billion.

The ministry forecasts RES-generated capacity will reach 5.9 GW by 2020, with solar accounting for 1.52 GW. For 2014, the Russian government envisage 120 MW of new solar capacity in the country.

With the optimism in Russia’s solar market, entire regions have been increasingly competing in developing or launching high-powered solar plants.

Recently, German EPC provider Enerparc helped install a 1 MW ground-mount project in the Republic of Dagestan in just two weeks, with other solar projects totaling 5 MW in the region to be carried out in the near future.

Built by German companies Enerparc, Mounting Systems and Skytron, the Dagestan solar plant is expected to generate more than 1.2 gigawatt hours per year.

Russia’s Astrakhan region announced plans in the beginning of 2014 to build two 15 MW solar plants near Astrakhan City, the administrative center of the region, and in the town of Volodarskiy.

"In the future, we’ll take on launching wind parks as well, as our key task is to ramp up sustainable energy development in the region and prep up its popularity as a region rapidly developing renewables," said Alexander Zhilkin, the Astrakhan Region governor.

Among other Russian regions that have resolved on harnessing solar in 2014 are Orlovsk and Sverdlovsk regions.