A recent study to quantify renewable energy deployment in North America by the US-based National Academies of Science found that, in terms of national wind power potential, Russia came way ahead of its nearest rivals, with more than 118 Pwh (Petawatt hours). Next on the list was Australia, with a meagre-looking 86 Pwh. No wonder, perhaps, that investors are beginning to gaze over Russia’s famed steppes and shorelines at a bottomless natural resource that has been barely harnessed.
But despite the favourable natural conditions and attractiveness of wind power there are still no huge wind farms, nor single wind farms around the rural villages and suburban areas in Russia, a situation the Russian Association of Wind Power Industry (RAWI) would like to see rectified in the very near future.
RAWI president Igor Bryzgunov certainly thinks so. “Today we see a trend of serious investors’ involvement in wind power industry,” he said. “It’s not surprising, since Russia has the world’s largest potential for wind energy development.”
Of that, there is no doubt. Some 40 billion kWh of electricity could be generated by Russian wind farms every year, so the implementation of large and small wind power plants in the vast Russian spaces would be highly efficient. Such areas as Gulf of Ob, the Kola Peninsula and most of the coastal strip of the Far East are the windiest areas according to the world classification. The average wind speed at 50-80 m height, up at the top of the average turbine, is 11-12 metres per second – the ‘gold’ standard in the wind energy industry is five metres per second.
While Mr Bryzgunov says that Russia’s current ‘modest’ performance is still very far from reaching its optimum, there is hope the wind will blow in a better direction for the industry in the future. Russia has the capability to set up modern equipment production, 200 times more efficient than the ones used 10 years ago. “The price of one kW of wind generated electricity is already approaching the price of gas generated by power plants and is actually cheaper than fuel oil and coal generated electricity,” stated the RAWI president.
“We are deliberately moving away from the definition of “alternative energy” to the concept of “renewable energy, and we also need to think about the fact that oil and gas reserves in our country are not unlimited, and that these conventional sources of energy are not recovered for free too.
“A number of projects, like the wind farm in Kalmykia, are already in operation. However, a number of practical issues should be resolved first so investors could begin to develop this promising industry: in particular, premiums to wholesale market prices for RES-generated electricity, and technical grid connection compensation for small generators (up to 25 MW). These issues are now being resolved by the Ministry of Energy.”