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Gigawatt-producing solar plant coming to Uzbekistan

30 September 2011
www.power-eng.com of 9/30/2011 - Tashkent's rising interest in solar power generation may be backed by serious investors and project applications. Uzbekistan, jointly with Russia's Lukoil and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will build a solar power plant with the capacity of one gigawatt.

A breakthrough project

In mid-September, Vagit Alekperov, the President of Russia's Lukoil, said that the Russian oil giant will build a solar power plant in Uzbekistan with the designed capacity of one gigawatt.

"Now, the company, in cooperation with the Uzbek government and ADB, is working on designing the solar energy plant. The capacity of the first unit will be 100 megawatts, and in the future it will reach one gigawatt," said Alekperov, without mentioning the price and terms of the project's implementation. Thus, one of the most powerful solar power plants in the world may be built in Uzbekistan.

Power plants on renewable energy sources (RES - sun, wind and water) are regarded as the most promising field of world energy development. In particular, Germany, according to DENA (the government's consultant on energy issues), may be faced with overproduction of electricity generated by solar panels. However, it can hardly happen with Uzbekistan. Currently, oil and gas make 97% of the country's energy resources, coal makes 2.3%, and hydropower 0.7%.

According to Uzbekistan's Center for Economic Research, if current trends and resources consumption volume continue, Uzbekistan will have enough natural gas and coal only for the next 20-30 years, while oil reserves are almost depleted.

However, by the end of this year the Uzbek government will develop a national concept on renewable power sources, aimed at the widespread introduction and development of alternative energy sources. According to the concept plans, by 2015, 2.5% of the country's electricity should be generated by renewable energy sources, and by 2020 this rate should reach 5%.

The potential of solar energy in Uzbekistan is equivalent to 50.9 billion tons of oil. During the year, Uzbekistan averages 300 sunny days, and the energy produced from each kilometer of horizontal surface is about 2,000 kilowatt hours, which suggests that the solar energy industry has significant potential for growth, believes analyst Anvar Jumayev.

According to the Uzbekenergo State Joint Stock Company, in December 2011, ADB will allocate a grant worth $1.5 million for Uzbekistan to develop a feasibility study on solar energy development in Uzbekistan by the end of 2012. The project includes the construction of two experimental and two commercial power plants, running on solar energy.

"Given that the technology of solar electricity production at the initial stage requires substantial investment and is used in the countries with subsidies, there is still much to be done in this direction," said Timur Khakimov, a consultant on solar energy projects at Uzbekenergo. According to him, the introduction of these technologies largely depends on social factors and their application will affect consumers. "Nevertheless, the technical potential exists," said the expert.