Looking at the sun without rose-tinted glasses

Belarus’ alternative energy development in full swing
By Olga Pasiyak

Remains to generate profit
Solar energy can be profitable in Belarus these days. In line with the law, energy produced by solar must be bought at the so-called ‘green tariff’ rate during a ten year period — three times more than usual. A lower tariff of 0.85 is applied during the next decade. That sounds like something we should all be doing. However, the matter is not as simple as it might look. Firstly, individual people are prohibited from selling energy in Belarus and, secondly, the procedure of receiving agreements and necessary documents takes at least six months.

Be that as it may, an increasing number of persistent people have completed all the paperwork. Tycoon JSC is among those selling energy to the national stations. The company runs its own solar electric station (generating 400 kilowatts), near Mogilev Region’s Zhukovo village. It focuses on alternative energy and also owns several wind facilities.

The first private electric station, in the Myadel District, generates 6 kilowatts with the help of its 20 batteries and three solar collectors. As four batteries are enough for a single house, much of the generated energy is successfully sold on. However, there are not great profits at this level, around Br2m a month. Taking into account the high cost of the necessary equipment, a facility of the kind would eventually pay for itself in 7-9 years.

Economy in focus
While some are already successfully working in the field, others are joining alternative energy projects. The Republican Institute for Knowledge Control has its own photo-electric facility (over 38 kilowatt) which is among the largest in the country. A table shows real-time data on its operation — resembling a facility in Florence. A tender took place in spring and a Belarusian company, working jointly with Lithuanian producers, won it. At present, 153 batteries are located on the Institute’s roof — each generating 250 watts. The batteries are divided into two groups, one of 70 and the other housing the remaining 83. Since early September, over 3,000 kilowatts have been produced.

The Institute’s Director, Nikolay Feskov, showed the results. In the first month after its official launch, the facility generated 4,759 kilowatts, while the establishment used just 3,821. Much energy consuming equipment is installed at the Institute and, to save power, only LCD lamps are used here. As a result, 2,830 kilowatts were consumed in August (from a total of 4,240 produced). The remaining power is used by the city electric lines but, if an agreement is achieved, the Institute may be eligible to apply the ‘green tariff’. 

The company responsible for installing the equipment at the Institute tells us that firms primarily prefer 10 kilowatt electric stations and individuals of 5 kilowatt (worth 20 batteries). To gain full independence from the city lines, special energy accumulators are needed. These expensive items push up the solar energy prices. With this in mind, alternative energy lovers transfer to the usual power lines at night time. Tо avoid confusion, special separate meters are installed.

Future prospects
Belenergo strongly disagrees with the opinions regarding the high amount of red tape needed to pursue this direction. The company notes that anyone can install a solar system for personal use in Belarus without any problems, in a similar way that they can install a diesel generator. However, any wish to sell on the generated energy makes the procedure more complicated. In addition, certain requirements are placed on block-stations or mini heat-electric stations (which operate simultaneously with an energy system).

The EU is now the largest market of solar energy on the globe. 51 gigawatts are generated there. Meanwhile, America is ready to invest $15bn into the development of technologies using solar energy, wind and bio-fuels. They aim to increase the share of alternative energy by 25 percent from its current 10 percent by 2025.

Zhores Alferov, the Nobel Prize holder who was born in Belarus, also advocates solar energy. A year ago, he told at Minsk conference, “Our future relies on solar energy. It’s the major energy source in cosmos and the same should occur on the Earth.” Time will show whether this will happen…
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