Russia’s wind energy sector is severely under-developed due to the absence of a regulatory framework or support scheme for renewables. This is unfortunate as the country has the longest coastline in the world which has huge wind energy potential, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). High wind potential exists along the coastlines of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans, the Caucasus region, the Urals region, the Altai and the Sayan mountains. Currently, the largest wind farms are located in the Kaliningrad Region, Republic of Bashkortostan, Republic of Kalmykia and in Chukotka. There are plans to build massive wind farms in Russia’s Arctic northwest. The farms are to supply Europe with the electricity generated from the farms. It is hoped that the low production costs and unusually high winds experienced in the region will produce efficiencies that could make electricity generated there cheaper than renewable energy produced in Europe.
Russia’s installed wind power capacity was a mere 15.4MW in 2011, with the majority of this originating from small wind farms with capacities less than 2MW. Total capacity has seen a dip since 2008 when it was 16.5MW.
About the turbines
There is currently only a handful of operating wind farms in Russia. The largest farm is located in the Kaliningrad region and has a capacity of 5.1MW. It operates at only 4.7MW. Others are either not in operation or are not promising, according to Anatoly Kopylov, vice president of the Russian Wind Energy Association. The second largest, a 2MW project in Chukotka, is currently out of operation as it had to compete with traditional gas-fired stations that also provide municipal heating.
Most of the country’s wind turbines are owned and operated by state-controlled regional utility companies that also operate the local transmission systems. Most wind turbines installed in Russia began operating before 2002 and generate less than 1 MW. The only two larger turbines were manufactured by Vensys in 2011. Vestas is the largest turbine supplier, both in terms of total capacity and number of installations. Since the Russian wind energy sector is under-developed, modern wind turbines with a capacity higher than 1 MW are not produced in Russia. Local companies simply do not have experience in manufacturing parts for modern wind turbines or in building and servicing wind farms.
Renewables’ Future in Moscow
Russia’s share of renewables in electricity generation accounted for a mere 1.5% in 2010. The government is working towards 2.5% by 2015 and 4.5% by 2020 and 2030. Many believe that these targets will not be met. EWEA points out that two different and contradictory government support mechanisms have been written into law but are not yet functioning and grid connection costs are also unclear.
There are signs of progress, however. Deputy Energy Minister Anton Inyutsyn explains that draft decrees to clarify the legal status of renewables should soon be ready for publication. That should address a long-standing complaint amongst would-be wind entrepreneurs that the law simply ignored their technology and make it easier for them to connect to the grid.
With the right regulatory framework and support scheme for renewables, Russia may be able to realize its significant wind power potential.