Russian solar expansion picks up speed


Solar PV development in Russia has accelerated in recent weeks with a number newly announced major projects throughout the country.

The southwestern Astrakhan region announced in a September a $1 million 250 KW solar facility in the settlement of Narimanov and is now lining up five large-scale solar installations that will have a combined capacity of nearly 90 MW next year.

The renewables share of Astrakhan's total power output is expected to reach 15% in 2015, a new Russian record that puts Astrakhan on par in that regard with leading renewable energy countries like Germany and Denmark.

The new solar facility in Narimanov consists of 1,060 solar panels and harness solar energy in an area covering 5,000 square meters.

Energija Solnce has won federal tender for building 29 solar power plants in Russia. The biggest part of them, six, will be erected in the Astrakhan region, said Elina Polianskaya, deputy chairwoman of the region's Economy Development Ministry.

Alexander Kolesnikov of Energija Solnce boasted of having put up one plant in a month. "The others though will be more powerful and therefore their assembling will take more time," he said.

Meanwhile, in Sakha, in the Russian Far East, OAO Saxaenergo has launched a 40 MW solar plant which is expected to fully serve the power demand of the local 350-resident community in the far-flung ice-cold region.

Awarded 175 MW of the total 476 MW of state-supported solar capacity for 2015-2018, China-based Amur Sirius has announced it's getting ready to start building a PV production factory in Russia to implement the solar projects.

The plant's estimated output will reach some 330,000 solar modules per year and a combined capacity of 100 MW.

The Chinese are building a Russia-based PV plant in order to meet the local content demands required by Russian RES legislation — as much as 70% of solar installation equipment from 2016 has to be made in Russia. Amur Sirius reportedly invested $142 million in the Russian plant.

Russia's Xevel, an energy holding with a keen eye on renewable energy projects, has said it will build several solar facilities with a total capacity of 254 MW in Siberia over the next several years in a 13.2 million square kilometer swath extending southwards from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and to the national borders of Mongolia and China.

"Only in the year of 2015 alone we will launch a 30 MW PV facility in Altai, a 25 MW plant in Buryat, a 30 MW solar installation in the Omsk region and a 10 MW plant in the Zabaikalje region," said Xevel official Evgenij Kazakov.

In the south, Crimean authorities are scrambling to bolster local renewable energy capacities in an effort to buffer a possible lack of conventional electricity, a result of Russia's seizure of Crimea and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Crimea can generate an estimated 628.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity on its own but still needs to buy as much as 2.5 billion kWh from Ukraine to fully satisfy its power demand.

Wary of Ukrainian power disruptions, Crimean authorities expect to add roughly 134 million kWh to the grid from solar capacities until the end of the year and as much as 62 million kWh from wind.

Despite the buoyant sustainable energy expansion, some Russian experts warn that state support for renewables is ineffective both in the retail and wholesale green energy segments, especially in the former.

Participants of a recent high-level meeting of Russian sustainable power executives appealed to the Russian government, asking it to thoroughly review the current renewables legislation and change the way the state-support for sustainable energy projects is distributed.

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