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Yamal's wind will create energy

Yamal's wind will create energy

30.11.2011 — Analysis

The government of the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district is intent on filling the gaps in its electricity-generation capacity. Currently the region draws most of its energy from its neighbors in Yugra. This dependence is forcing them to consider developing their own system of energy security - to design, build, and operate new facilities and search for new approaches to supplying energy. There are plans to meet the region's increasing appetite for power by establishing new, centralized facilities, as well as utilizing alternative sources of energy. Experts feel that wind power is a promising area of alternative energy. As this columnist for RusBusinessNews has determined, in the near future Russian industry will be ready to offer consumers wind turbines that are of an acceptable price and quality.

Currently there is a shortage of over 1,000 MW of generating capacity in Yamal. The development strategy for the district will require substantial investment in energy development, over 200 billion rubles by 2020. In the area where the generation of power is centralized, there are plans to build the Urengoy regional power plant (450 MW), the Tarko-Sale regional power plant (600 MW), and the Polyarnaya gas-turbine power plant in Salekhard with a capacity of 268 MW. A new 220-kilovolt power line between Nadym and Salekhard is scheduled to begin operation, and there are also plans to expand the power grid in the town of Labytnangi, the village of Harp, and at the Ob station. Experts believe that taking these steps will help to mitigate the severe problems with the supply of electricity in Russia's primary gas-producing region.

However, most regions in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district get their electricity from decentralized sources of energy. Outdated, inefficient equipment and expensive fuel make energy generation exorbitantly expensive. Experts estimate that fuel shipped to the Russian Far North in 2009 cost 100 billion rubles. The high price of providing electricity to remote areas has prompted the district government to seek ways to reduce expenses.

According to Aleksandr Popov, the head of the Center for Renewable Energy, there is still disagreement among experts regarding the advantages of centralized vs. decentralized methods of supplying power. Studies are needed in order to decide what is most useful for a particular region. But no calculations are necessary to see that economic considerations will prevent electric transmission lines from ever being extended to truly remote, backwater areas. In these situations, small-scale power generation is the only real option. Scientists are already suggesting several local sources of energy: hydroelectric plants that do not require a dam, small underground nuclear reactors, and wind turbines. Aleksandr Popov thinks that "windmills" might be very useful in Yamal.

At one time the Soviet Union was a leader in the use of wind energy. The first wind power plant was built in 1932. At the time there was serious consideration of the idea of constructing wind farms in the Far North, which would have provided electricity to the entire country. Studies showed that there was more wind power on the coast of the Arctic Ocean than the entire existing capacity of every thermal power station in the USSR at that time.

In the end, the decision was made to build powerful hydroelectric power stations on Siberian rivers. And the rest of the world chose instead to improve the generating equipment. Today, up to a quarter of all electricity in some countries is generated from wind turbines. In Russia, this figure amounts to only a fraction of one percent.

The lackluster development of wind energy in Russia is mainly due to the fact that the cost of a kilowatt produced by a wind turbine is currently not competitive in comparison with centralized sources of electricity. But there are very few alternatives to "windmills" in Yamal, which has no electrical network and a very fragile ecosystem.

Studies show that very small-scale power plants can generate enough energy to supply manufacturing facilities. According to Larisa Chetoshnikova, the head of the Automation department at a branch of South Ural State University, an experiment was conducted in the city of Miass (in the Chelyabinsk region), where the average wind speed is 2-2.5 meters per second, which showed that a plant with a one-kilowatt capacity is able to provide all the electricity needed by a university laboratory.

There is better wind in Yamal. According to information from the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district's department of energy, housing, and utilities, the district currently has three facilities to measure wind speed. According to preliminary data, the average annual wind speed is 4.9 meters per second, up to a maximum of 30 meters per second. An approximate total of 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity could be produced by wind farms.

Electrical plants powered by renewable energy are not now widely used in Yamal. However, the use of wind energy would save the region significant amounts of money. Since the production costs of generating electricity using wind power plants is several times lower compared to diesel-powered units, the district will save about 140 million rubles by 2020 just on subsidies to the public.

Currently, as part of the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district's targeted investment program, design work is underway on the construction of a facility called Wind-Powered Electric Generators for the Needs of the Yamalskie Oleni Municipal Enterprise, which will receive a total of two million rubles in funding in 2011. There are plans to build two units, each with a 100 kW capacity, which are scheduled to begin operating in 2012. The estimated cost of one kilowatt of installed capacity will be 16,000 rubles. Experts claim that future technological innovations will push this figure down.

According to Vladimir Timofeev, the head of the laboratory at the FSUE Automation Research and Production Association, one kilowatt of installed capacity in a European "windmill" costs $1,000, and $800 (25,000 rubles) in similar Russian facility, which is currently unaffordable for most Russian consumers. Many Russian companies today can produce complex, expensive wind turbines, but they are still unable to manufacture one that is simple, yet effective. But Vladimir Timofeev claims that Russian inventors are close to creating a revolutionary installation with an original wind rotor, which will significantly reduce the cost of a kilowatt of installed capacity.

The preparation of the first pilot model of the rotor is currently being completed, and it will be tested in 2012. This expert is confident that the results of the tests will be positive, but manufacturing methods are needed in order to mass produce this new "windmill." This is exactly what China is doing. China is building the necessary production facilities that will make use of existing technology, thus bringing the cost of a kilowatt of installed capacity in a wind turbine down to $350. Apparently this is the figure Russian manufacturers should be keeping in mind.

There are no production facilities in Yamal where it would be possible to base the production of sources of renewable energy or their component parts. Governor Dmitry Kobylkin has repeatedly stated that the region is ready to help finance projects that take advantage of the opportunities offered by alternative energy. The amount invested will directly depend on the efficiency of the facilities offered by the developers.

Vladimir Petrov

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