By Swann Bigot, legal expert and consultant in international affairs, for Eurasia Network – October 12, 2017


Zavodskaya solar farm, Astrakhan oblast, Russia – Source : Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, September 2017

A new 15 MW solar power station opened last month in the Astrakhan oblast. The solar farm, named « Zavodskaya », was built by the company OOO Solar Systems with a total investment amounting to USD 50.3 million (RUB 2.9 billion), reported the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. The construction began one year ago, in September 2016.

The event was important enough, since the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government Arkady Dvorkovich, the First Deputy Minister of Energy Alexey Texler and the Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Vasily Osmakov came from Moscow to join the Governor of the Astrakhan oblast Alexander Zhilkin in the opening ceremony held last month.

The new solar farm is located near the city of Astrakhan, in the Volodarskiy district, on two land plots covering more than 257 thousand square meters. The facility will generate 21 million kW/h per year, which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 20,000 inhabitants of the oblast, revealed TASS news agency. The energy of solar radiations will be transformed into electricity thanks to 56,626 solar panels with 250 W individual capacity and 6 inverter plants. Moreover, the budget of the Astrakhan oblast expects to collect annually more than USD 1 million (RUB 67 million) of taxes from the activities of the new solar farm.

Read also : A 100 MW solar farm will open in Kazakhstan

Furthermore, the level of local manufacture of equipment used for the solar power plant reached 55%, informed the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade. Indeed, Russian companies have actively taken part in the project and have supplied silicon, electrical equipment and supporting metal structures of the station. They have also carried out design, survey and construction works.

Before these results, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Vasily Osmakov stressed that “The deployment of local production capacities and technologies for solar power plants is essential for the development of this high-tech industrial sector in our country.”

This is the first operational solar power station of OOO Solar Systems, whose the projects portfolio now exceeds 300 MW of capacity and which is a 100% subsidiary of the Chinese company Amur Sirius Power Equipment Co. OOO Solar Systems was founded in 2014 to develop solar power in Russia and plans to open 15 solar farms by 2020 with a total capacity reaching 335 MW.

The company is now the second player in the national market, after Hevel Group, founded in 2009 through a joint venture of Renova group and Rusnano.

Read also : The Danish Vestas will build its first blade factory in Russia

During the opening ceremony the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government Arkady Dvorkovich said that Russia builds renewable energy facilities in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases impacting the climate and develop new technical competencies and technologies in the country. He added that the southern regions of Russia offer favorable conditions to use solar energy, according to news agency TASS.

Arkady Dvorkovich then stressed that the legislation supports the local manufacture of components needed for solar power plants and that the country could export technology and equipment to foreign markets within three or four years.

In Russia, there are now about 10 companies which manufacture basic and auxiliary equipment for solar farms – from photoelectric modules and solar wafers to metal supporting structures for solar panels and all kinds of cable and wire products, reported the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Gradual build-up of technological competencies will enable us to create in Russia a full line of basic and auxiliary equipment for renewable energy sources with high export potential” concluded the Deputy Minister Vasily Osmakov.

Read also : China invests in Russian solar power

Why the Astrakhan oblast ?

Firstly, the Astrakhan oblast is known to be the sunniest region of Southern Russia, with more than 300 sunny days per year and hosts industrial capacities. Therefore, this is an ideal spot to develop solar power.

Secondly, the Volodarskiy district has not been randomly chosen for the construction of the 15 MW solar power plant. Indeed, poultry and greenhouse farms as well as food industrial facilities developed with foreign investments will boost the local economy and increase the energy needs. Indeed, the regional Ministry of Industry revealed that the Astrakhan oblast expects by 2020 an increase in electric power consumption of more than 250 MW, reported the news agency Regnum.

In addition, OOO Solar Systems plans to achieve in 2018 another 15 MW solar farm, located in the Narimanovksiy district of the Astrakhan oblast.

The rise of solar power

Note that the opening of the Zavodskaya solar farm is a first step of a larger program. Indeed, agreements over the construction of 16 solar power stations in the Astrakhan oblast by 2020, for a global cost amounting to USB 866 million (RUB 50 billion), have also been signed with three investors, announced the Governor of the oblast Alexander Zhilkin on August 31st, reported TASS news agency.

Each new solar power station will cost more than USD 26 million (RUB 1.5 billion).

These projects are announced as the country has been actively developing renewable energy sources, such as solar power or wind power since 2013. Regarding hydropower, Russia has high capacities since the Soviet times. In the current context, other regions of the Russian Federation develop solar farms, such as the Orenburg oblast, the Altai republics, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Khakassia, the Stavropol krai and the Saratov oblast, among others.

Besides, Russia, as one of the key players of the global energy markets, even joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2015 and is now actively increasing its technological and manufacturing competencies in this sector so that national companies could export their products and services to foreign markets.

Expanding the use of renewable energy sources is also one of the strategic priorities of the national energy policy. Thus, the Russian government wants to improve the economic efficiency of energy supply to remote and isolated areas of the country.

The renewable energy share in the Russian energy mix should reach 5.5 GW by 2024 : 3.3 GW of wind power, 1.76 GW of solar power and 425.4 MW of hydro power capacities (stations of up to 25 MW).

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© Copyright 2017 – Swann Bigot, legal expert and consultant in international affairs.

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