Turkmenistan plans solar energy institute


Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has called on the country's Academy of Sciences to create a solar energy institute.

The decree is intended to explore the solar potential that, thus far, remains largely untapped in the country. The Turkmen Academy of Sciences has been charged with developing the institute, with support from the Justice Ministry. A report on the country's potential and proposed strategy will be submitted to the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers by July.

A tentative testing of the country's potential was conducted in 2012 when the Academy of Sciences assessed Turkmenistan’s quartz sand. It is widely believed that the county possesses vast monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon reserves, which could be cheaply extracted with affordable energy – a result of the medium-sized gas and oil fields that abound throughout the country.

Already operational is a solar-wind hybrid complex that delivers energy to pastures and settlements in the more remote corners of the country, as well as a solar desalination plant and a solar greenhouse. Installed PV capacity, however, is negligible, while solar potential is vast.

The country receives in excess of 3,000 hours of sunshine a year in some parts, and boasts an average of 300 sunny days a year. The solar research institute would identify the most ideal locations for the installation of solar PV plants, and will also investigate the potential for silicon production in a number of spots across the country.

Renewable energy development in the country remains sluggish. Sitting on the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves and vast quantities of oil resources, there remains little appetite throughout Turkmenistan to pursue renewable energy alternatives.

Yet with an average solar irradiation intensity of 600 W per square meter, and near year-round sunshine for Turkmenistan's dry desert areas (which cover 86% of the terrain), solar's potential is beginning to turn heads.

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