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8 May, 2009 15:22

Wind steps up to the plate as alternative energy comes of age

Renewable energy is probably not something everyone associates with the world’s biggest oil and gas producer. But foreign firms are lining up to sign deals for wind turbine projects in Russia.

Russia is known for its energy resources and exports. Gas, oil, and nuclear power all top the list. A quarter of a century ago, Russia was a world leader in wind energy development. But both research and development have significantly waned.

Centralized power systems currently cover only about a third of Russian territory – leaving some 20 million people without coverage. Thats sparking interest in wind power, according to Valery Vasilyev, General Director of Sapsan-Energiya.

“It is where development takes place that there will be the greatest perspective growth. It could be in the Moscow Region, points of tourism and relaxation, or regions where there are not sufficient electricity supplies. The most important thing is the education of the consumer. People need to learn how to use electro-energy that is autonomously produced.”

RusHydro, one of the worlds major hydroelectric power generators, is on the brink of signing a $90 million dollar deal with Japan’s Mitsui and J-power to develop wind plants off Russky Island near Vladivostok. Acting RusHydro CEO, Vasily Zubakin believes investment in wind power is attracting increasing interest.

“There are Russian regions were there is a clear demand for wind power – where powerful networks have been built and in these regions there is already investment – both foreign and domestic. I think we're looking at potential competition for land where windmills could be installed. And we don't even have the full picture of institutional support. Foreign investors are already going ahead with their plans in the country, and we're preparing to compete with them.”

Russia still only generates a tiny proportion of its power by renewables. But if new projects prove successful, the sight of windmills on the horizon could become more common.