Hevel Solar plans $450m PV expansion in Russia

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A 22.5 billion rubles ($450 million) solar PV development plan for Russia has been announced by one of the country’s richest men, Viktor Vekselberg.

The billionaire, who owns transport, energy and telecommunications group Renova has outlined ambitious solar development plans designed to prove that resource-rich Russia – which has an energy surplus – has a place on the global solar landscape and is not totally reliant on oil and gas markets.

Set up in 2009 as a joint venture between Renova and state-backed nanotechnology company OAO Rusnano, Hevel Solar will ramp up its development program between now and 2018, building upon a series of recent landmarks that have seen its 130 MW thin film module plant in Novocheboksarsk reach full capacity this week.

The $393 million production facility only began commercial production in February this year and has already shipped thin film modules to a 10 MW PV plant being constructed in Buribay Village in the region of Bashkortostan.

By 2020, Hevel Solar hopes to have 500 MW of solar PV capacity under its belt in Russia, and the backing of one of the country’s wealthiest oil tycoons is quite a coup for the industry. According to Hevel Solar CEO Igor Akhmerov, the plan is to deploy solar in regions where oil and gas has yet to fully dominate, rather than compete with those two titans of the energy industry.

"You can’t compete with 70 years of planning and infrastructure," Akhmerov told Bloomberg. "You try to find a way to leapfrog problems to the front."

Hevel Solar developed Russia’s first solar plant to benefit from renewable energy subsidies, which were set up in 2013 or solar, wind and small hydropower projects as the country embarked upon an effort to increase its clean energy footprint.

The company is on course to complete a third large-scale solar farm in July, and will at that point make a decision whether to upgrade and expand its thin film production facility, which is used to solely supply its own solar projects.

"It is difficult to ignore the fact that everywhere in the world solar becoming a massive phenomenon," said Akhmerov. "We’re hoping to be in a place to say: we have the technology for construction, financial and other capabilities to take this project much further."

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