The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has vast wind energy potential but low electricity prices and high investment risk have prevented its development. On the eve of the Chernobyl ten year anniversary, experts are more optimistic about the outlook for wind and other new electricity technologies. Grid connected wind power is predicted to increase from 30 to 100 MW in the next four years, with most installations in the Ukraine, the northern Caucasus and the lower Volga. The largest wind farm site in the CIS at Donuzlav, Ukraine, has some 70 WindEnergo 110 kW turbines. Raduga production enterprise in Kalmyk republic near the Caspian Sea may be the only operating project in Russia. Water pumping and off-grid markets are also potentials, the latter coming to life as a result of overseas aid.

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Development of wind power in Russia and Ukraine is proceeding much more slowly than expected. Projects have hit sizeable roadblocks even after the signing of agreements or joint ventures with foreign investors. As is the case for nearly all western manufacturers or partners, the wind industry has discovered it is far tougher than expected to invest or sell expertise or equipment to the former Soviet Union.

Even so, on the eve of the ten year anniversary in April of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, experts on renewables are more optimistic than in years about the outlook for wind and other new electricity technologies in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), as most of the former USSR is known. They feel a focus will return to renewables and global warming in the CIS, at least temporarily, at an international conference in Kiev for the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. "The Lessons of Chernobyl," from April 20-24, is being followed by an alternative energy trade show, from April 24-26.

One knowledgeable researcher predicts that installed wind capacity will increase significantly -- possibly more than six-fold -- by the turn of the century, mostly in the Ukraine and to a lesser degree in Russia. Currently, experts believe there are five grid connected wind farms that add up to 30 MW installed capacity in the CIS -- four in the Ukraine and one in Russia. All are small except for one of those in the Ukraine -- a wind plant of turbines designed by Kenetech Windpower of California. It is located in the western Crimea at a site near Evpatoria close to the shores of Donuzlav Lake and believed now to be as much as 7.7 MW in installed, operating capacity.

The project's slow pace of development, despite the ambitious plans unveiled in 1993 when the WindEnergo joint Russian-US venture was announced, seems typical of the CIS. Initial plans were for the project to total 500 MW by 1995-96. Even the scaled-down plans announced as recently as mid 1994 called for the venture to have developed to as much as 50 MW by 1995-96. Yet Kenetech -- known most recently for facing widespread financial, manufacturing and design problems -- had invested in excess of $5 million in the venture by mid 1994. Another western manufacturer tells a similar tale of non return on investment. It has been unable to collect $50,000 for equipment shipped there.

Indeed it is financial, institutional and legal barriers that are preventing the development of renewables in the CIS. Some of the barriers encountered are common in less developed countries, but some are a relic of the area's former centrally planned system. Barriers include a lack of low priced, long term capital, financial uncertainty, low domestic fuel and electricity prices, lack of information, corruption, lack of business expertise, weak legal institutions, and lack of innovation. Russian technological pride and western versus Russian interests are also stumbling blocks.

Predictions disappointed

After the break-up of the USSR in 1991, a fairly fast pace of clean energy development was predicted by experts on the basis of the region's under-used industrial capacity, idle because of the end of the cold war, the region's extensive pollution, its need for autonomy, high jobless rate, and shortages of power, especially in the Ukraine. At that time the Russian government specifically emphasised development of 100 kW and 200 kW wind turbines from 1991-93, before economic realities had to be faced. Government assistance was then cut and research became limited to electric utilities, R&D institutes and private companies. Now, economic and political turmoil and also the uncertainty of the financial and legal systems of the CIS member nations are slowing the pace of progress.

Transfer of renewables technology from foreign countries has been only occasional because of the risks of investing and committing to joint ventures or other agreements. The bureaucracy can be tremendous, says CIS renewables expert Eric Martinot, who recently completed PhD research at the University of California. He says, for example, that the WindEnergo venture required at least 127 separate signatures for approval in the Ukraine.

From 1992 to 1995, Martinot found only five cases of actual wind technology transfer to the Ukraine or Russia from the west, including the larger WindEnergo project and the, as yet unsuccessful, SeaWest joint venture, announced some years ago but which has come to little. In addition, development by CIS domestic institutions and companies is sparse, say experts. Several ambitious government plans and budgetary commitments have been announced in Russia and the Ukraine, but far less than anticipated appears to have been installed. Martinot, who visited the region eight times in 1995, also says that smaller wind systems are still rare despite the region's vast population, its areas of good wind resources, and the desperate need for economic development in the CIS.

Martinot, who has studied renewables in the CIS for the last five years, concludes: "I would have expected [development] to have proceeded a lot farther, especially given their idle industrial capacity." He notes that for decades the Soviets had done research into renewables, including wind, resulting in some small test installations. When the Soviet Union broke up, this background and investment largely went to Russia, with some filtering to the Ukraine.

On the eve of the Chernobyl anniversary, Martinot predicts that by the year 2000, installed capacity might reach 100-200 MW in wind projects alone in the CIS. He expects that most of the grid connected systems installed in the next four years will be located in the Ukraine and in two areas of Russia, the northern Caucasus, an area with such severe power shortages that factories have expressed interest in wind as they are sometimes prohibited from drawing power from the grid, and in the lower Volga.

Martinot points to newish government support such as Ukraine's 1994 decree establishing 0.5% of all electrical billing for renewables, especially wind. Most of the money collected is expected to go to WindEnergo. Martinot also predicts that small hybrid systems will predominate in the northern part of European Russia, near Finland and the Baltic Sea, and in the far eastern part of Asian Russia, where there are severe power shortages.

Politics and potential

Political and power-generating autonomy is clearly an issue in some areas identified as holding wind potential. In the Crimea, which has sought greater autonomy from the Ukraine and where the WindEnergo plant is located, power was cut off repeatedly, three hours at night and again in the mornings, in the winter of 1994-95 by Ukrainian officials because of unpaid electricity debts, they said. But at Donuzlav, some 17,000 residents had uninterrupted power that winter specifically because of the WindEnergo wind farm. About 93% of Crimea's power has traditionally been imported from other parts of the Ukraine.

The areas identified as having best potential are those with the best wind resources. They are often the most power hungry, too, because they lack traditional energy resources. This is especially the case in Ukraine. In Russia, the privatised national electric utility, RAO "EES Rossii" -- which owns a controlling interest in many of the 72 regional utilities -- has identified 17 of the country's 89 states, also known as 'oblasts' or 'krays', as having favourable wind resources for development (see map on next page). For off grid applicatons, Kazakhstan alone has some 300,000 people apparently not connected to the grid; and at one mountainous site on the border with China, there are on average 100 days a year with wind speeds greater than 15 m/s. Other renewables have potential in the CIS too; biomass is being looked at in Russia, while the potential for solar in the Ukraine is apparently good.

Martinot's positive predictions for wind are despite the current near-collapse of Ukraine's economy and the fragility of Russia's economy, in which industrial production is estimated to have fallen by more than 50% from 1992-94. Adding uncertainty are the violent troubles in Chechen and Dagestan -- bordering on the northern Caucasus and some of Russia's best wind resources. To complicate matters there is doubt about whether wind power is competitive with conventional energy in the CIS, although it does seem to be so in some regions. In mid 1994 prices ranged from $0.08/kWh in Kamchatka, in the north-east of Asian Russia, to just $0.008/kWh in Irkutsk, far inland and just north of Lake Baikal.

Other factors making investment in Russia a frightening prospect include the lack of requirements for financial disclosure by businesses in either Russia or the Ukraine. It can be impossible to check out a potential partner or customer. Contract law is also not viable, so there may be little recourse. In addition, Ukrainian currency is not convertible, and the rouble is risky, too, although Russian commercial banks are finally starting to lend on a longer term basis, says Martinot.

Information can also be hard to glean because of the size of the CIS, its older communications and the newness of most member states and their institutions; even western non-governmental groups in frequent touch with energy advocates there say they may only know the status of a project or programme if their representatives have visited the project recently, says Fran Macy of the non-profit Center for Citizen Initiatives-USA in San Francisco, which promotes private co-operation between Russia and America.

Making business even more difficult, says Martinot, is that privatisation and the desperate need for money is pushing domestic companies into being proprietary with technical information -- such as wind assessment data. They are selling basic information only to the highest bidder. Government attempts at resource assessment have been slow or sometimes inept, for example, with wind speed measurements that omit the height above ground.

Other barriers typical of developing nations are less problematic in the CIS. The region has a huge amount of under-used industrial capacity and a pool of skilled workers and engineers, while many military factories are good candidates for conversion. Russians, especially, have the technological know-how and capabilities to exploit foreign technological information and licenses.

In the Ukraine

At the largest wind farm site in the CIS, at Donuzlav in the Ukraine, about 70 of the WindEnergo 110 kW turbines -- essentially a licensed version of Kenetech's 56-100 model -- had been installed by early January. More were to go in the ground within the next weeks. According to Louie Saletan, at the United States Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, the plant may even be be close to 100 operational turbines by now, making it by far the single largest wind project in the former Soviet Union.

The turbines were at first about half Ukrainian content, says Saletan. By the time he visited the site, in June 1995, wind farm general manager Vasilii Petrunenko was maintaining that the turbines were about 96% local content, including the controllers. Most of the 16 Ukrainian suppliers are apparently former defence plants that have been retooled to make wind turbine components, he was told. WindEnergo had said it intended to be manufacturing 50 to 60 of the 110 kW turbines a month by May. That is quite an increase in manufacturing capacity. Between April 1994 and November 1995, the joint venture apparently made some seven turbines monthly. By the end of 1996, WindEnergo says it hopes to have 500 turbines running, an installed capacity of just over 50 MW, says Saletan.

Electrical output from the Donuzlav wind plant is favourable when compared with that of Kenetech turbines elsewhere, he says. Saletan was told the wind farm had produced 1.2 million kWh since operations started officially on May 8, 1993. Three US-made machines were first installed in April of that year; three Ukrainian-made turbines in March 1994; two more Ukrainian-made WECS in April 1994 and another in December of the same year; and in April 1995, 15 more Ukrainian machines were added to the project. Saletan was also told that because of lower labour costs the turbines cost less than half to make in the Ukraine than in the US. (Indeed, average wages in the Ukraine are less than $10 monthly, which is less than one-tenth of the average monthly wage in Russia). Because WindEnergo claims it can make one of the 56-100 units for a retail price of $41,000 -- compared with $100,000 if made in the US -- the Kiev-based joint venture hopes to sell turbines to central and western Europe.

In the next year or two, WindEnergo plans to have 12 wind farms of the size of the current joint-venture plant operating in the Crimea and Ukraine. Meantime, the Crimean electric power utility, KrymEnergo, a partner in the WindEnergo joint venture along with Kenetech, is attempting to market its 56-100 turbines to the Russian national utility for a 15 MW installation near Kaliningrad on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, a part of Russia with high energy prices sandwiched between Latvia and Poland. The Russian utility RAO, which owns some 40-100% of all regional utilities, is a major owner of the Kaliningrad utility, YantarEnergo.

Because of this, the US-based Alliance to Save Energy is attempting to help raise $30-40,000 for feasibility studies in the Kaliningrad area, where there are already various small pilot projects and Danish and German involvement in wind, says senior researcher Seth Baruch at the Washington-based alliance, which has been involved in the area for more than two years. Baruch notes that the Kaliningrad and Crimean utilities have already signed a "protocol of intent" for a first project of 10-15 MW. That demonstration project would then be a basis for WindEnergo projects elsewhere in the CIS, and also overseas, possibly in India or Japan, says Baruch.

Other players

WindEnergo is not the only wind developer in the CIS, and is not even alone in the Ukraine. Another of the Ukraine's small wind farms is in Nikolaev, near the Crimean town of Odessa. The town is a centre of anti-nuclear activity and one of three Ukrainian towns -- along with Nikopol and Zaporozhye -- where energy efficiency and wind power potential seminars will be held next month to mark the Chernobyl anniversary. These events are backed by the Centre for Citizen Initiatives-USA and by several local Ukrainian non-governmental groups that focus on renewables. Three 200 kW turbines are already operating in Nikolaev, at the mouth of the Dnieper River, an area designated by the United Nations as a demonstration zone for renewables and efficiency. The project involves the Ukrainian Ministry of Fuel and Power, which is trying to interest overseas companies in helping to expand the installation.

Both this project and the WindEnergo development were apparently started after a law to raise domestic capital was passed by the national government in Kiev, earmarking 0.5% of all electrical billings to fund wind development, says Macy of the Centre for Citizen Initiatives-USA. In addition, a company named Yzhnoe, in the Ukraine, had developed its own 200 kW turbine and installed four units in the Crimea with government help by late 1994. Also under production were models of 5 kW and 30 kW, says Martinot.

Outside the Ukraine, negotiations are also under way for a grid-connected 10 MW project in the Pushkin Pass in Armenia. The idea for the wind farm was initiated by Ken Touryan of the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) under a co-operative agreement between NREL and the Russian Ministry of Fuel and Energy, signed in October, 1994. Touryan says there is strong commercial interest in the project from Dutch wind turbine manufacturer Nedwind and to a lesser degree from Zond Systems Inc in the US. The two companies have been seeking, so far unsuccessfully, a contract that would pay $0.045/kWh.

Although the NREL co-operation agreement is so far geared to exploring the potential of the remote market for smaller wind turbines, other CIS locations are now being seriously considered for wind projects, says Touryan. As well as the Ukraine, these are Kazakhstan, Kyryzstan, the Russia region of Dagestan, and Armenia. Indeed, he says that as long ago as 1992, one 150 kW Sumitomo turbine was installed in Armenia, where there are also about one dozen American Wind Barons for water-pumping.

Russian megawatt manufacture

The sole operating project in Russia -- or at least the sole one western experts seemed aware of -- is near the Caspian Sea, in the country's Kalmyk republic. It is dubbed the Raduga production enterprise. The company involved, Raduga, was previously one of the USSR's main aerospace companies and used to cater exclusively for the military. It has been in the process of conversion to non military manufacturing since 1989 and is developing a 1 MW wind turbine with aluminium blades and both a synchronous and asynchronous generator suitable for extreme continental temperature variations from -50 to +40 degrees Celsius.

In late 1994, Raduga had partially developed a 250 kW version of the same turbine and had also built various prototypes, according to Martinot. A 22 MW project near Elista, in Kalmykia, was also under way, with construction of roads and the control centre completed. Since then, one or two of the 1 MW turbines have apparently been installed, he says. The local utility, which is developing the project, has said it wanted to increase regional independence, prepare for the future possibility of higher gas and oil prices, reduce the influence of the national gas producer, Gazprom, put defence factories back to work, and showcase Russian aerospace wherewithal.

Other small Russian wind plants were also apparently in the works in late 1994, using 250 kW turbines made by a company called Vetroen, or "The Wind." The company used to collaborate with the Ukrainian company Yzhnoe before it developed its own 220 kW turbine. Vetroen has proposed several projects of 2-5 MW in different parts of Russia, including at Krasnodar and Komi, the latter expected to function as a test station for severe Arctic conditions. It is unclear what their status is now.

Water pumping and SWECS

The potential of the water pumping and off-grid markets in the CIS has not escaped the notice of the wind industry. WindEnergo is negotiating with various CIS water ministry representatives in the hopes of selling turbines for water-pumping in the extensive canal systems of the Crimea and in the nation of Khazakhstan to the east. WindEnergo hopes the water pumping market is sizeable. Some 300 MW is currently used to power canals in the Crimea portion alone, which has a population of 3.5 million, notes the Ukrainian Water Irrigation Ministry. Negotiations are already under way with the ministry for a new installation of six, 110 kW turbines for irrigation and canal pumping, says Saletan. In addition, some five WindEnergo people are apparently hoping to spin off a new company to produce small wind energy conversion systems (SWECS), mostly 5 kW units, but also up to 10 kW.

Smaller western manufactured wind turbines have already been installed in the CIS. US company Bergey Windpower of Oklahoma has exported approximately two dozen turbines to the CIS since 1993, says Karl Bergey. They are mostly in the far northeast, in Asian Russia, and also in the Moscow area and other parts of European Russia. They power homes, hospitals and are in remote sites.

Bergey also signed an agreement with JV LMW Windenergy of Khabarovsk (located to the north of China and not that far inland from the Sea of Japan) for installation of a group of Bergey turbines. Bergey designed SWECS were also to be made under a joint venture in Khabarovsk. This was after the Russian Ministry of Nationalities' Affairs and Regional Policy launched an ambitious programme two years ago to install over 17,000 small in turbines in the north and far east of Russia. It is estimated that about 40 small turbines were imported under this Dutch joint venture before the Dutch party went bankrupt.

For Bergey nothing has yet been installed under the LMW agreement, in part because of lack of funding and capital in Russia, says the CIS renewables expert Eric Martinot. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) was expected to have helped the venture get going last year under its "Commodity Import Programme," but nothing has been committed to wind so far. This failure to put money on the table has caused considerable frustration amongst boosters of renewables in the former Soviet Union. Bob Ichord at USAID could only confirm that no funding has yet gone towards wind projects in Russia although energy efficiency projects have received money.

NREL village power

One project that might well be installed this year is under the co-operative agreement between NREL and the Russian energy ministry. A total of five sites have been selected for demonstration projects in the western part of Russia's "Northern Territories" -- the areas of Archangelsk and Murmansk districts near the Arctic Circle. Applications include powering villages that depend upon diesel and remote meteorological stations that may employ as many as 150-200 people. NREL's budget for the agreement in 1995 was $425,000; this year it is $350,000.

Most immediately under the agreement, three Bergey 10 kW hybrid wind-diesel systems might be installed at one site as soon as this summer, says NREL's Ken Touryan. Larger turbines of up to 50 kW apiece are also being considered, says Martinot, also working on the project. Crucially, matching funding from the US is already in place, making completion of the project far more likely than is often the case in the CIS.

Already installed under NREL's co-operative agreement is another demonstration project, a 1.5 kW Bergey turbine in Moscow's busy Fili Park. At the international centre in Moscow, part of Russia's equivalent of NREL, consideration is being given to a small demonstration project consisting of a few SWECS, says Touryan. Also as part of the co-operative agreement, funding has been applied for from the World Bank for projects to be installed over the next three years in about 100 villages in 20 regions of the Northern Territories stretching across Russia as far east as Kamchatskaya near the Bering Sea. Each project would be some 100 kW, says Touryan.

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