Murmansk wind potential charted and reported

Russia's huge Kola peninsula -- east of the far north of Finland and best known as the one-time home of the Soviet fleet at the port of Murmansk -- also has one of the best wind resources on the European continent. As yet, however, there is neither a technical nor economic basis for development of the resource. So concludes an EU funded feasibility study conducted by an international group of researchers, reports Jonas Wolff from VTT Energy in Finland in "Vindögat," the newsletter of the Finnish wind power association. Not only are there strong winds along the peninsula's Barents Sea coastline, but also across the tundra. Data gathered from ten meteorological stations for a wind atlas reveal that average annual wind speeds of 9-10 m/s can be found up to ten kilometres from the coast. Wind speeds inland are 8 m/s. The influence of the Gulf stream means the climate is less severe than in northern Finland, though wind turbines adapted for cold weather would still be necessary. The best potential is to be found on the northern coast east of Murmansk along a power line that leads to four hydro power stations some 100 kilometres away. The area is largely uninhabited. Power consumption, however, has dropped this decade from 18 TWh to 13 TWh a year. Only if permission to retrofit existing nuclear and hydro stations is refused early in the next century would new capacity be required. Electricity prices are artificially low in Russia, but it is expected that by 2002 they will be subject to market forces, making wind competitive in the best locations. With money in short supply in Russia, any wind development would require international financing. There is also a potential for off-grid supply to the many isolated fishing communities on the Kola peninsula reliant on costly diesel for their electricity generation. The Murmansk authorities are more interested in testing wind-diesel systems in these communities than in building wind farms, Wolff reports.

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