Uzbekistan breaks ground on 300 MW solar project

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The gas and oil-rich Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan has commenced construction on the first of three large-scale solar PV plants that will add 300 MW of solar capacity to the country by 2020, according to a Reuters interview with state-backed utility Uzbekenergo.

Investment in this solar project will eventually reach $700 million, with the inaugural solar plant located in Uzbekistan’s Samarqand region backed to the tune of $274 million. This project was awarded under a first tender issued late in 2014, while two further plants – slated for construction in the regions of Namangan and Surkhandarya – are expected to be put to tender at the end of the year, with an aggregate investment cost of around $420 million.

The Asian Development Bank, along with the Uzbek Fund for Reconstruction and Development, is to jointly finance each of the three 100 MW solar plants.

Currently, Uzbekistan is 90% reliant on thermal power plants for its energy, despite being rich in oil and natural gas. With high levels of solar irradiation across much of the country, solar power is being tapped as a potentially viable source of electricity. In 2013 the country created the International Institute for Solar Energy alongside the Asian Development Bank, and had previously made tentative plans to develop 4 GW of solar PV capacity by 2030.

The nation’s solar efforts have fallen quiet in recent years as the government has tended to prefer to develop its vast hydro and wind resources. However, calculations from Uzbekenergo have revealed that solar energy’s potential in the country is vast, at 50.973 billion tons of oil equivalent, compared to 9.2 million tons for hydropower and 2.2 million tons for wind.