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Kazakhstan builds 2MW solar power plant
The Kapchagai project would use local resources to produce sustainable energy within 5 months.
By Aleksandra Babkina
ALMATY – Kazakhstan's Samruk-Energo Co. has started construction of a solar power station in Kapchagai, 75km north of Almaty.
The 2MW station will be the country's first solar energy project of commercial importance. It’s scheduled to start operating in 2013.
"It's Kazakhstan's first-ever major solar power station involving such efficient elements as photoelectric panels made of single-crystalline silicon, which are capable of converting solar energy to electricity with minimal losses," Samruk-Energo spokesman Oral Karpishev said.
The solar station will partially satisfy Almaty Oblast's growing power demand.
"While having a relatively small capacity, the future solar station will nevertheless contribute to the national energy mix, which is particularly timely, considering the growth of power consumption throughout Kazakhstan, especially in Almaty Oblast," said Kairat Rakhimov, head of the Industry and New Technologies Ministry's Renewable Energy Sources Department.
Almaty Oblast power demand has grown 5.5% a year, the ministry said. Britain's BISOL Central Asia Ltd., a subsidiary of BISOL Group Slovenia, which has a record of implementing similar projects internationally, will design the station, supply the necessary elements and carry out the construction work.
Moving toward a green economy
As a project involving a renewable energy source, the solar power station will do its bit to improve the environmental situation in Kazakhstan.
"The station will use green technology, which Samruk-Energo sees as a way to partially compensate for the damage done to the environment by the coal and nuclear industries," Karpishev said.
"Samruk's project has been welcomed by the Kazakhstani environmental community, which is seriously concerned about the booming extraction of uranium and plans to create a nuclear fuel bank in the country," he said, referring to Kazakhstan’s status as the world’s biggest uranium producer since 2009.
"(The use of) sunlight is a great way for Kazakhstan to shift to clean energy," Ecological Initiative Development Agency (EcoIDEA) head Yekaterina Strikeleva said. "I would like for solar energy to find a firm niche in Kazakhstan’s energy supply.”
"By boosting the use of alternative energy sources, we scale down environmental risks and make further steps toward sustainable development," Almaty Energy and Communications University President Gumarbek Daukeyev said.
"I wish, though, our progress was faster," for which purpose Kazakhstan would need to accelerate the development of alternative energy sources, he added.
"This especially concerns solar energy sources, which are abundant in the country's south,” he said. “Promoting solar energy in a country as sunny as ours should help us preserve the environment for the generations to come.”
Kazakhstan has huge potential for solar energy development. It records 200 to 250 sunny days per year (and up to 300 in the south-east), and radiant solar energy is estimated to reach an annual 800--1,300kW/sq. m.
"Using solar energy for home-heating purposes is possible anywhere in Kazakhstan, whereas large solar stations can best be located in southern regions and near the Aral Sea," Rakhimov said, adding that aggregate fuel savings through the use of solar energy are compatible with the output of a medium-capacity coal mine.
Kazakhstan is rich in raw materials needed to produce metallurgical silicon, used in the manufacture of solar arrays, he explained. The country's subsoil reserves include 265m tonnes of quartzite and 65m tonnes of high-purity quartz, the basic elements for metallurgical silicon production.
Past experience and prospects
The country has been moving for some time toward renewable energy sources, with several projects along these lines.
For example, workers installed a demonstration solar-heating system in a children's home in Kyzylorda in 2002.
Kazakhstan's first-ever solar power station began operation in Sarybulak village, Almaty Oblast, in June. With a production capacity of 52kW, it supplies enough power to light houses and pump water from a well, Kaprishev said. The project was implemented with UN Development Programme support as part of the Green Village international initiative.
In September, workers installed solar batteries on the roof of Lev Gumilev Eurasian National University in Astana. The 10kW source powers several auditoriums in the university.
Future efforts are also on tap. A factory that will produce photoelectric modules for solar power stations is scheduled to start operating in Astana in December, Rakhimov said. It will use as its raw material domestically mined silicon that will be purified and refined in Ust-Kamenogorsk.
And beginning in 2015, Kazatomprom, the state-owned nuclear holding company, will build solar and wind power stations.