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Experts: alternative energy may be used widely in the Arctic

Most settlements in the Arctic receive electricity from isolated systems - practically every region has its own source of energy

MOSCOW, July 28. /TASS/. Russia’s Arctic territories have a great potential for using alternative energy sources, experts, lawyers, scientists and regional officials told TASS.

In some of the Arctic areas, wind speed is more than 5-7 meters per second, this is a very favorable condition for economically reasonable use of the wind energy; another promising direction is use of solar panels. As yet, the Arctic regions mostly have isolated energy supplies, where every region is using diesel electric plants - the fuel is brought there during the so-called northern supplies once a year.

The electricity cost reaches 120 rubles ($2) a kW. TASS writes about possible alternative energy sources in the Arctic and about the green projects in the North.

Top-expensive diesel

Most settlements in the Arctic receive electricity from isolated systems - practically every region has its own source of energy. "As a rule, those are diesel power plants, which are low-effective and the cost of produced energy is top high - it may be up to 80-120 rubles - the diesel fuel is delivered only once a year during the winter supplies," head of the State Duma’s energy committee Pavel Zavalny told TASS. "Compare it with the electricity cost of 3-4 rubles in the country’s areas with centralized energy supplies."

Using alternative energy sources in the Arctic is quite possible, he continued. Moreover, the Russian government plans increasing the share of green energy from one to 2.5% - to six Gigawatts, thus offering all support to investors and to the projects on renewable energy sources. "By now, Russia has a ready legal base to support the renewable energy sources, including laws and governmental regulations to attract investments and to offer subsidies for production of electricity based on renewable energy sources," the legislator said. "We have projects, which are at different stages now, on development of the wind, solar energy, where the equipment production localization in Russia is no less than 50%."

Experts say, nowadays the most promising alternative source of energy in the Arctic is the wind, though in the low temperatures the equipment’s service becomes very expensive. "I would say, the only major source of electric, and possibly, heat energy in the Arctic zone could be wind turbines," Vice President of the Russian Association of Wind Industry, a leading expert in renewable energy Anatoly Kopylov said. "However, wind turbines in the Arctic, like any other equipment, requires special Arctic low-temperature versions - all oils, metals and other materials should be suitable for use in extremely low temperatures. This requirement for the materials makes the Arctic wind equipment much more expensive, than used in other areas."

But the easiest and most cost-effective renewable source of energy, the expert said, are the solar systems: they practically do not require special services. However, in these climate conditions, there is no enough solar energy for stations of the kind. Thus, he said, the best energy complex for the Arctic should combine different technologies: the wind, the Sun and diesel.

"The combined systems are as follows: it is a united energy complex, which, when it is sunny - the solar panels are working, when it is windy - the wind generators are on, when nothing of that is available it uses the diesel generator," the expert said. "But it begins working only if the battery is out of energy, but if it still has necessary current and voltage, then the battery is on. The complex also has a control system to adjust the work. My opinion is: for that natural zone most suitable are those not big combined energy systems."

The lawyer agrees the combination of the traditional and alternative approaches is most effective. It offers smooth and much cheaper - to 15-25 rubles - electricity. "As yet, there are no federal projects in the Arctic, but there are regional projects to support the renewable energy sources," the legislator said. "For example, Yakutia makes power plants using solar batteries, the Nenets District uses wind-diesel generators; so projects of the kind do exist, but as yet they are only local."

Energy supplies to northern villages

Small power plants, uniting diesel generators and alternative energy sources, are working well to give electricity to small villages in the Murmansk region. For example, four villages on the Tera River - Chavange, Chapoma, Tetrino and Pyalitsa - are more than 60km from the main grids. The first combined energy plant was made in the Pyalitsa village in late 2014. It has four wind generators five kilowatts each, two diesel generators 30 kilowatts each and 60 solar panels of the total capacity of 15 kilowatts.

The next stage in development of electricity supplies in the region would be wind-solar-diesel plants in villages Chabanga and Tetrino, and a similar plant began working in spring 2016 in Chapoma.

Specialists say one power plant of the kind may cut expenses on buying diesel by more than three million rubles ($50,000) a year. Besides, the local villages, which are growing tourist attractions, have smooth - not a few hours a day - electricity supplies.

The wind potential of the shore areas of the White and Barents Seas is not ignored. By late 2019, near Tiberka and Tumanny the local authorities will put operational a wind park, which capacity would make 200 megawatts.

Northernmost alternative plant

A solar-wind power plant has solved the problem of electricity for the local residents of the country’s backbone area - the Zhelaniye Cape of the Russian Arctic national park - the northern part of the Northern Island of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, which is considered to be a border between the Barents and Kara Seas. In 2015, on the cape appeared the northernmost facility for generating electricity of renewable sources.

"The idea to use alternative energy was from the very beginning, from the moment the park was organized, though we doubted it would be working. The conditions are unusual, not like in the areas for which alternative energy is used most often - the midland and the south, where it works fine. In 2013, we had an experiment: we brought to the cape the equipment for tests. The results were good, especially in solar energy," the park’s Director Alexei Barakov said.

It took about one month to install the 24 solar panels and two wind generators. The batteries now produce up to eight kilowatts and every field season, which usually is from early July to late September, the park saves about 1,000 liters of fuel and cuts the emissions. This year, with additionally installed solar batteries, the Zhelaniye Cape will have the system of 36 batteries.

A similar system, though without wind generators, will be installed at Bukhta (Bay) Tikhaya, which is yet further to the north - on the Gukera Island of the Franz-Josef Land. Another large-scale project for renewable sources of energy will begin this summer at the Omage Park on the Zemlya Alexandry (Franz-Josef Land). Here, 240 solar panels will produce up to 15 kilowatts. At Omega, this system will not only produce electric energy, but will also heat the base - using the solar energy, the facilities there will have electricity in spring, summer and autumn.

Wind power plant in Yamal

The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District began construction of an experimental wind-energy station near Labytnanga, which will be the first facility of the kind beyond the Polar Circle. The plant’s capacity would be 250 kilowatts an hour, the height - 50 meters, and each blade is ten meters. "We have picked the location to get the favorable rose of wind to have stable work of the wind energy throughout the year," the Mobile Energy Company said.

The plan was: if the Extreme North experiment is positive, the wind plants could be made in distanced Arctic villages to cut necessary stock of diesel fuel. "The wind energy will allow cutting expenses by about 30%," the company said. "But this is not a complete substitution of the regular generation, as there are days of absolute still weather, but the energy should be available every day."

The first launch was in July 2014. The complex was adapted specially for the severe conditions - it was insulated, and specialists tested it to see the blades are not covered with ice if the temperature is minus 50. The wind generator’s cost is 20 million rubles ($333,300), the minimal required wind speed is 3 m/s.

However, the wind generator was stopped a few times due to regular failures in the low temperatures. The second launch was in 2016. "As of now, the wind generator is working fine, the energy goes into the common network," the company said.

In March 2017, the alternative energy appeared in Yamal - on the Bely Island in the Kara Sea. Scientists installed there a small wind generator - during the experiment members of scientific expeditions will follow up the equipment there.

Biofuel for Arctic regions

Biofuel could be an alternative energy source for some of the Arctic regions. For example, Komi transfers gradually its boilers, first of all in the wood-producing districts, from the expensive oil and coal to biofuel made from waste of wood processing - briquettes, pellets, chips and firewood. The republic reports ten biofuel producers and two more new plants will go operational before the yearend. Their capacities will be 40 and 20 thousand tonnes of pellets and briquettes respectively.

While as of January 1, 2016, in the republic were 37 boiling stations using biofuel, on January 1, 2017 - 58, and another 18 will begin using this kind of fuel within the current year, Director General of the Komi Heat Energy Company Igor Glukhov told TASS.

"The economy reasons are very clear: why bringing coal to wood producing districts in the republic’s south, where the fuel is not expensive? When delivered to hundreds, thousand kilometers the coal becomes ‘diamond’, and by using briquettes we give work to small businesses and thus use the low-quality wood and waste," he said.

The director explained firewood is good for small boilers, while for the big ones, with capacity of 2-3 megawatts, using firewood is not easy - throwing 30-50 cubic meters of wood into the oven within one shift is next to impossible, thus they tend to use fuel briquettes or having pellet-fueled boilers to have the process fully automatic.

Quite interesting is a project of a major pulp and paper producer in Russia, the Mondi Syktyvkar Plant, which modernized the heat plant, which gives heat and hot water to a district in Syktyvkar, where more than 60,000 people live. The company wants to have the biggest in Russia steamer, fueled by waste from wood processing, thus the Komi Republic will become a leader in using biofuel.

Besides the wood waste, the steamer will burn every year up to 150,000 tonnes of sludge waste, and the filtering system will minimize the emissions. The project’s cost is estimated at eight billion rubles ($133 million) and the term is to 2019. With the new boiler the company will save 127 million cubic meters of natural gas a year and will build up by 20% use of wood waste.

Modern generation

Works on new sources of energy continue. Scientists search and find new solutions for energy supplies in the Arctic. The Institute of Thermal Physics at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has suggested and patented an opposite wind generator to produce heat. The device, a combination of a wind engine and a thermal generator, is based on water friction - the fluid accelerates and then breaks producing heat. The Institute’s expert Anatoly Serov says the wind generator may be installed rather low and it is easy to manage.

"This equipment may be used in the North, and the most important aspect is to observe the requirements regarding the temperature range and the wind speed," he told TASS. "We have tested the system’s prototype - may produce the heat up to 100 watts."

Specialists of the Institute of Oil and Gas Geology and Geophysics of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences also research potential of geothermal energy in West Siberia, including in its Arctic zone. Head of a laboratory Dmitry Novikov forecasts the heat deposits in the artesian basin of West Siberia are 200 million Giga calories a year. To compare, Russia within a year produces the total of about 500 million Giga calories.

"In the Arctic regions, the heat reserves are huge, calculations even have not been done," he said. "Most promising here are thermal waters, which are at the depth from one kilometer."

"It is reasonable to build geothermal plants far from settlements, especially if they have oil and gas wells already: the energy equipment does not require big investments," he continued. "Now, fuel to the North is brought by winter roads, which is expensive.".