Russia may significantly boost solar power in its energy mix after Hevel Solar invests in $450 million worth of solar farms in the country, Bloomberg Business reported. Between now and 2018, Hevel Solar will expand solar power generation in Russia - a nation dominated by oil and gas.
As the leading oil and gas exporter in the world, Russia has mainly relied on these energy sources to produce electricity. In 2013, oil and gas and gas alone represented 68 percent of all export revenues in Russia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Domestic sales of Russian petroleum products reached an estimated $102 billion in 2013.
Despite the dependence on oil and gas to fuel Russia's power plants, billionaire Viktor Vekselberg predicts the country will diversify its energy portfolio. After his ventures in oil and power, Vekeslberg entered the market for nanotechnology and solar after the formation of Hevel Solar, a joint venture between OAO Rusnano and Vekselberg-owned Renova.
Although Russia does not have as many sunny days as countries with thriving solar sectors, new developments in the industry could make it possible to establish solar plants successfully in Russia.
In November 2014, researchers from Russia's Tomsk State University revealed a new kind of cheaper and flexible solar cell that could generate power even during cloudy days, PV Magazine reported.
With the severe weather conditions common in Russia, especially in areas like the Arctic, scientists must develop solar technology that will endure and continue to produce electricity. Lyudmila Borilo, head of the Polyfunctional Materials laboratory at TSU, said flexible solar cells have many applications and could still produce energy during less than ideal weather.
"Another option is to create cloth capable of generating heat from solar light. It's optimal for people who work in the Arctic or in difficult conditions," said Borilo. "Notably, the new solar elements are extremely sensitive to solar irradiation and keep generating electricity in a bad weather, even during cloudy and rainy days."
Progress in Russian solar sector
Hevel continues to make progress by increasing Russia's solar power capacity. Earlier this year, the Kosh-Achagatsk solar power plant became the first facility in Russia to be approved by the Market Council, the country's regulator for the electric power industry. Hevel commissioned the Kosh-Achagatsk plant.
Recently, Hevel also finished its second solar farm in the region of Orenburg, near the border between Russia and Kazakhstan.
The company expects to set up solar plants in areas where they will be best utilized and avoid overwhelming the grid with renewable power. Hevel will complete its third solar plant online in July and could continue to grow the solar industry in Russia.
"Fortunately the world helps us, because it is difficult to ignore the fact that everywhere in the world this is becoming a massive phenomenon," Hevel CEO Igor Akhmerov said in an interview, according to Bloomberg Business. "We're hoping to be in a place to say: We have the technology for construction, financial and other capabilities to take this project much further."
More information on the energy market in Russia can be found on PennEnergy's research area.