technologies

Russia has learned to earn in the Sun

Solar power plants began to appear all over Russia. But unlike the energy-deficient West, we have enough traditional energy sources, there are no problems with its high cost, and insanity on the environment is not yet typical for our country. It turns out that the boom of solar power plants and the transformation of Russia into a platform for the development of renewable energy sources have serious reasons.

"Daughter" of the Chinese Amur Sirius-the company "solar systems" - promises to put into operation one of the largest solar power plants in Russia with a capacity of 100 MW and a cost of 13.5 billion rubles by April 1, 2020. Staromaryevskoye SES is located in the Grachevsky district, Stavropol territory. The first stages with a capacity of 50 MW have already been put into operation in early October. After reaching full capacity, the SES will deliver about 125 million kWh of electricity per year to the unified energy system of Russia. Given that the average consumption rate in Russia for an apartment is 300-350 kWh, this station will be able to provide consumption of about 400 thousand apartments.

Moreover, the company plans to build 15 solar power plants for 44 billion rubles in the coming years. Such stations are opened all over Russia – in the Altai Republic, Astrakhan, Samara, Orenburg, Khanty-Mansiysk district, Chukotka is considered as many as four renewable energy projects (RES). 

Such growth of renewable energy projects is not accidental. The fact is that Russia has provided special preferences for renewable energy sources-wind turbines, solar power plants and HPPs of small capacity. Selected by the" market Council " investors in RES receive a guarantee of return on investment in the construction of the facility under a number of conditions. In particular, a certain level of localization has been established. For the SES project, the localization level should be at least 70%.

The tariff for the sale of electric power within the framework of the RES DPM (the contract between the selected investor and consumers of the wholesale market) is fixed for 15 years. It is designed in such a way that guarantees the investor a return on the project with a minimum yield of 12%.

"15 years we are paid by the market, 10 years we pay off and five years we make a profit. After that, we can give the power plant, or we can sell it, " says Sergey Zimens, chief engineer of the Staromaryevskaya SES with a design capacity of 100 MW, which is located on 280 hectares (400 football fields).

In fact, there are regions in Russia where the construction of renewable energy facilities is profitable even without any state support. We are talking about isolated energy-intensive areas in the far East and Eastern Siberia. "Now diesel power plants are often used there, where the cost of production of a kilowatt-hour exceeds 10-15 rubles. Already now in such small settlements, for example, in Yakutia, solar power plants are being built, which operate in a combined mode. This is beneficial even without state support, as the alternative is very expensive, "- says senior expert of the Fund "Institute of energy and Finance" Sergei Kondratyev. However, in the centralized area the electricity supply renewable energy cannot yet compete with traditional energy without state support. And as soon as it appeared, the RES market in Russia began to gain momentum.

Thus, according to Rosstat, if in January 2017 SES (solar power plants) produced 45 million kWh, in August 2019 it is almost three times more-124 million kWh. in Less than three years, the share of RES in electricity generation increased from 0.1% to 0.2%. In the eight months of 2019, electricity generation from renewable energy sources (wind turbines, solar and geothermal plants) increased by 40% to 1.143 billion kWh, where SES accounted for 670 million kWh. "in recent months, there has been an increase in electricity generation at solar power plants by tens of percent. This is a low base effect. For Russia, this market is just being formed, " says Kondratyev.
It is believed that a solar power plant should produce cheap electricity. After all, the operating costs of SES are minimal. However, the end user, in fact, will not notice that solar energy appeared in the General system. After all, business, first, give the opportunity to discourage investment. Secondly, the share of solar energy in Russia is still extremely small. Therefore, this does not affect electricity tariffs, and they will continue to be indexed. Although the experience of Western countries shows that when the share of solar energy reaches at least 10% in the total system, it begins to have a positive impact on the cost of electricity, Kondratyev points out. Therefore, perhaps in decades some effect in this regard will appear.
However, given the already low tariffs for light for the population in Russia (in comparison with the same Europe), the cheapness of solar energy is not the main, but rather a side goal. The key task of such generous support of renewable energy projects in Russia is the development of a new branch of engineering and new competencies. Anyway, this is a new kind of energy, and in this area Russia has traditionally been ahead of many. Thus, the support of renewable energy is not just a tribute to the world fashion, which was initiated by the importing countries of traditional energy resources. In a sense, for Russia it is diversification in the energy market.

"In developed countries, renewable energy is no longer a fashion, but a serious business. At the global level, investments in renewable energy, at least in recent years, are higher than investments in traditional electricity. We have this business in its infancy", - says Sergey Kondratev. 

"The requirement for localization of production helps to obtain their own competence in mechanical engineering. It also helps to gain competencies in research and development. This creates an opportunity for Russia to participate in this business sector, which is very actively developing at the global level. We would not want to miss this market. It is symbolic that Rosatom is one of the major RES stakeholders. He is actively investing in wind energy, " says Kondratyev.

And technologies in this area do not stand still and develop right in the course of construction of the solar power plant itself. As the chief engineer of Staromaryevsky SES Sergey Zimens tells, when only designed this SES in Stavropol Krai, for construction of the first stage (only seven turns) used modules with a capacity of 265 watts. However, now photovoltaic modules with a capacity of 315 watts are supplied for the fifth stage of the SES.

Finally, support for renewable energy is also a story about ecology, on which developed countries are simply "obsessed". "At the local level, this may mean a certain improvement in the environment in the case, for example, of reducing electricity generation at coal-fired power plants due to the growth of the share of renewable energy. But in General, renewable energy sources create a favorable public opinion, society supports renewable energy", - says Kondratyev.

However, we must understand that green energy is not 100% clean, it is just a marketing ploy. "Many studies show that in fact the carbon footprint of RES, taking into account the production of equipment and construction of plants, is not lower than that of gas generation," says Sergei Kondratyev.

"It is believed that the low cost of electricity produced at a solar power plant is combined with environmental friendliness and waste-free. However, at the stage of production of equipment for converting solar energy into electric energy, emissions into the atmosphere are produced. In addition, the disposal of solar modules is not fully worked out, and the possible leakage of chemicals from the modules leads to chemical contamination of the local soil and surface water. Therefore, SES does not have an environmentally beneficial effect and does not reduce the "ecological footprint of mankind", – said the first Vice-President of "Support of Russia" Pavel Segal.

"Here (at the SES) – it's green technology, and there, in the factories, they are "black". Everywhere-and in China, and in Podolsk. It's silicon»,

– confirms Simens. In Podolsk in 2016 the plant "solar Silicon technologies", which produces silicon wafers for photovoltaic modules, was opened.

With wind turbines, the situation is not much better. Blades for wind farms are made of plastic, which also can not be called completely clean production. But the main thing is that at the stage of work there is a low-frequency vibration, from which, as the President rightly said, there is no one around – no worms, no birds. This is a dead zone, including for people's lives.

It is curious that many companies engaged in traditional energy have turned their eyes to renewable energy sources. LUKOIL, for example, installed a 10 MW solar power plant to save electricity costs at its Volgograd refinery. Behind them, Gazprom Neft intends to build an SES on the territory of the Omsk refinery by the end of this year. This is a pilot project, which is carried out by the joint venture "Renova" and " RUSNANO "(the company "Hevel"). It will determine how much and when new industrial SES can be built. Or, for example, the plant "Loreal" in the Kaluga region is equipped with a solar power plant with a capacity of 50 KW.

However, we must understand that there can be no question of replacing RES with traditional energy. "We're just friends. Great help. Because someone has to duplicate this solar station. Somewhere 100 MW in the network should be spinning. If the sun went down, and we passed out, someone should throw a coal in the stove or open more gas, " concludes Zimens.

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