Boost for Russian wind from onshore and offshore projects

Russia’s fledgling wind industry is getting a boost from a first offshore project planned in the White Sea, while talks are underway between state-owned nuclear group Rosatom and foreign partners over the construction of three wind farms in Russia with a joint capacity of 610MW.

Chinese energy and engineering firm Sinomec plans to build a 60MW offshore array off the Kemsky district in Karelia close to the Arctic Circle, the government of the Russian Republic of Karelia said in a note.

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund intends to participate in financing the 9bn Russian rouble ($141.2m) project scheduled to be built in 2017-2020, but the government of Karelia didn’t give details on who may supply turbines, offshore foundations or other equipment.

Sinomec couldn’t immediately be reached by Recharge.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has doubts, however, that the planned investment in the Kemsky offshore project will be enough.

“The winter sea ice in the White Sea will make that project challenging and expensive; €130m won’t buy you 60MW of offshore wind, especially under those conditions,” GWEC secretary general Steve Sawyer told Recharge.

The White Sea each year can be frozen for six months or more and there are no commercial operating offshore arrays in Arctic or near-Arctic conditions yet.

Finnish wind power producer Suomen Hyötytuuli is currently building the 40MW Tahkoluoto near-shore array at Pori in the Gulf of Bothnia off western Finland, also in cold climate conditions, where it already has a 2.3MW pilot turbine running.

Siemens 4MW turbines will be installed at Tahkoluoto on specially designed, gravity-based steel foundations in order to withstand heavy ice loading that is typical of the Nordic winter.

Oil and gas-rich Russia at the end of 2015 had only 15.4MW of installed wind capacity, according to WindEurope, but the country has ambitious plans to add 22GW of renewables capacity by 2020.

Russia late last year awarded 280MW of PV and 35MW of wind in a clean-energy tender, following up on similar auctions in 2014 and 2013.

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Stringent local-content requirements – 65% of the equipment at wind farms must be sourced in Russia  – cast doubts about how realistic the country’s green ambitions are, however.

That is also a concern for Rosatom’s plans to build three wind parks with a combined capacity of 610MW across the country, deputy chief executive Kirill Komarov told Russian news agency Tass in a story published on Rosatom’s website.

Rosatom will choose a foreign technology partner for the wind parks at the end of this year, according to Komarov.

"I can say, at the initial stage, 21 companies expressed interest in the project, and now we have a shortlist of three companies, so that before the year-end to decide on the partner and to sign necessary papers," he is quoted as saying.

GWEC’s Sawyer says there are no turbine suppliers in Russia yet other than for micro-machines in the 30kW-or-so category.

“A one-off 600MW is unlikely to change that,” Sawyer adds.

Given the still relatively small size of Russian wind projects, European turbine makers find it difficult to plan the construction of new factories in Russia, despite the enormous potential for wind power in the biggest country on Earth.

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