Russian solar sector heats up

Taking advantage of the favorable solar legislation, Russia has been stepping up its solar capacity with the help of major local and foreign investors.

Avelar Energy Group, a subsidiary of Russian conglamerate Renova Group, and Xevel, controlled by Renova and state-owned Rusnano, are planning to construct five solar power plants in the Rostov-on-Don Region in Russia. Renovo and Rusnano are expected to provide the majority of the investment, estimated to reach $140.5 million over next three years. The companies are currently searching for the appropriate sites for the installations.

Avelar is set to connect 500 MW of solar generation from five solar power plants to the local grid by 2020. Russian experts predict that 1.5 GW of solar capacity will be added to Russia’s power lines between 2014 and 2020.

In March, Avelar signed a tri-partite agreement with the government of the Russian Autonomic Republic of Buryatia and Xevel for the joint effort to build several solar power plants of no less than 30 MW in total capacity in the republic.

Avelar recently partnered with Schneider Electric, a multinational France-based corporation, and agreed to seek Russia foreign investors for solar facility construction in the country.

Schneider Electric has pledged to assemble by next August a first 5 MW solar plant in the settlement of Kosh-Agachsk in the Russian Republic of Altai.

If the facility plays out well, the investor is expected to bolster its Russian presence by adding other 25MW of solar capacity by 2020.

On its website, Avelar parent company Renova boasts to be a leading international private business group comprising of asset management companies and direct and portfolio investment funds, owning and managing assets in metals mining, oil, machine building, construction, energy and utilities, telecommunications, nanotechnologies and the financial sector in Russia and abroad.

In other recent developments, Russia is set to open in June a long-overdue solar PV panel factory in the city of Novocheboksarsk in the Chuvash Region.

Citing the absence of necessary documentation and legislative basis, the plant’s opening has been postponed several times, but now seems to have completed the necessary hurdles to begin operation.

"The installation of the US$562 million technological facilities at the plant is in full swing as the launch is slated for June 24," said Ivan Motorin, the Chuvash prime minister.

Approximately 1 million photovoltaic panels are expected to be assembled annually at the plant.

Swiss company Oerlikon is set to provide and install the factory’s technological lines.

The PV panels will be assembled from Russian-made materials and will be first tested on Russian soil – in line with solar development regulations introduced last year. The regulations foresee local PV content to be at 50 percent until 2016 and 70 percent thereafter.