Russians offer arctic sites

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Efforts to open up a new frontier for wind power took another step forward in March during the second international conference on the potential for wind energy in Arctic regions. Boreas II, held in Pyhätunturi, in northern Finland from March 21-24, attracted 42 experts from nine countries.

Several participants from neighbouring Russia reported on the enormous potential for wind power in the north of their country -- on the Kola Peninsula and in isolated communities along the coast. On the northern coast of the peninsula mean wind speeds are 9 m/s, the grid is well developed and roads and other infrastructure are in place. What's more, the existing electricity generation is based on hydro power which, with its inherent storage, is well suited for the addition of wind into the system.

But although the potential in Russia is huge, so too are the economic and political constraints, reported representatives from the Kola Sciences Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences. One solution would be to build wind farms in Russia and export the power to Finland and Norway until such time as the price of electricity in Russia rises to market levels, making wind power commercially attractive.

For stand-alone operation, however, the market is already in place. Many isolated communities along the Arctic coast and the Steppes are reliant on diesel generators, made expensive by the long distances over which fuel has to be transported. Wind/diesel technology would greatly alleviate this problem, but before it can be put to use, technical problems with operating the plant in an Arctic climate have to be solved and more research is necessary.

Wind power research in Finland has so far been limited -- state funding has amounted to no more than 10% of the R&D wind budgets in neighbouring Sweden and Denmark -- but Arctic regions have been one of the main areas of focus. At Boreas II, icing problems with wind turbines and anemometers was the central theme.

Finland's meteorological institute, FMI, plays a leading role in research on ice build up and its effect on performance. The institute has been collaborating with German wind institute, DEWI, on a project supported by the European Commission's Joule II programme. FMI is responsible for collecting data on icing in order to create an information base for further analysis. The aim is to create standards for turbines in cold areas. Last year a Danish Wind World turbine was erected on Pyhätunturi fell and some preliminary findings reported. Ice build up of up to 100 kg per square metre of rotor swept area was observed.

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