Rise of Renewables: a first for Solar Power in Central Asia

By Dave Armstrong - 03 Apr 2015 19:20:0 GMT
Rise of Renewables: a first for Solar Power in Central Asia

It is Samarqand again, or at least the Province. This time, we show the latest and greatest achievement as a nation develops a golden future to equal its golden past.

Credit: © Podrobno.uz Samarqand image

At around $300 million in cost, the Uzbek grand inaugural plan for a 100MW Samarqand Solar Power Project in Pastdargom and Nurabad is almost ready. In 2016, years before schedule, this joint operation by the engineering company Uzbekenergo, South Korea and the government of recently re-elected President Islam Karimov will be completed. With great amounts of solar radiation available from up to 320 days of sunshine pa., the nation certainly outcompetes South Korea in such energy. Financially, there is the help of $110 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and $200 million from The Fund for Reconstruction and Development of Uzbekistan. Partners, South Korea, however, despite their small size, stand 10th in the world on solar powered electricity production (last years’ figures.) The ADB site has a powerful amount of information on their joint project if you require detailed information.

There is an estimate of solar power from Uzbekistan’s constant sunshine equivalent to the energy from 51 billion tons of oil. That’s a lot of imported Russian gas too. If oil and gas consumption declines however, the better comparison is with the current use of electricity within the country. At this optimum sunpower, citizens could potentially receive 40X today’s total usage. The trouble with present consumption is that 89% is still from oil, coal and gas, much of it imported. Not many black-outs would happen if the local production of solar energy could reach such levels, despite the problem of storing solar electricity. The key to this further development would be to sell this canned sunshine via an electricity grid to almost any of the surrounding energy-greedy nations. In exchange, the vast hydroelectric power available to neighbours in the Tien Shan and elsewhere could be imported at night. In addition, Uzbekistan has already refurbished 2 major hydro plants of its own, including the WW2 construction on the Tajikistan border at Farkhad HPP (near the Tien Shan, on the Syr Darya River.) The Director of the Academy of Sciences South-western main electric networks, Fayzulla Kurbanov, certainly hopes that solar energy grows fast.. In the meantime, he points out that the government pays special attention to the development of alternative energy, encouraging producers and users of alternative energy sources and providing them with tax and customs privileges.

Eventually, we will be able to solve the energy storage problem that affects both solar and wind powered projects. For now the dozens of small plants that heat and electrify on a small scale in Uzbekistan will finally be joined with a flagship project. Potentially, like solar developments themselves around the world, Uzbekistan could be set alight with solar plants. Individuals meanwhile can put the latest mobile phones down for a while to charge them with inbuilt solar cells, along with their laptops or tablets.

Going into the past, Soviet planners set up the scientific and experimental centre of an NGO called The Physics-Sun of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. With this history of research, we can expect this international cooperation to be installing the latest solar cells. We found the South Koreans and the US using perovskite to greatly increase efficiency in Solar Cells Go Perovskite . (The newest cells have a panchromatic light absorption and ambipolar behaviour to increase the absorption of energy by 50%.) These cells will not be available until 2017, but hopefully the Koreans can use their influence to utilise the best available at this moment in technological history.

In conclusion, this Central Asian solution to our global energy reconstructions, could involve the NW of China, whose coal consumption is recently guaranteed to reduce drastically. This would prevent the rapidly increasing problems (not least with breathing!) of air pollution in most Chinese cities and others in most countries. The international cooperation that is so obvious here is also evident in countries that we haven’t recently visited. We apologise for such omissions, but with the US, Europe and other big players getting all the attention, it is important to turn to the rest of the world to report on their successes!