Friday, May 22, 2009

The status of renewable energy in the Republic of Armenia…

The solar hot water and cooling system shown in the foreground on the roof of American University of Armenia is powered by a two-wing array of 72 solar panels that was constructed locally and generates a total of 5 kW (Photo by Jason Sohigian)

Armenia uses a diverse mix of energy resources, from natural gas to nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy. In 2005, 42 percent of the energy consumed was generated by the Medzamor Nuclear Plant, 30 percent was produced by hydropower and wind, and 28 percent was generated by thermal power plants fueled by natural gas.

I recently completed a study on the renewable energy sector and had an opportunity to visit a few key sites and interview Tamara Babayan and Ara Marjanyan of the Armenia Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency Fund, Kenell Touryan and Artak Hambarian of American University of Armenia, and Diana Harutyunyan of the Climate Change Information Center.

The basic principles of Armenia's Energy Sector Development Strategy adopted in 2005 are achieving sustainable economic development, enhancing the energy independence of the country, and ensuring efficient use of domestic and alternative sources of energy.

A new market study by Danish Energy Management indicates that Armenia has proven experience in solar PV technologies and significant deposits of raw materials for developing a local technological chain. This extensive study co-authored by SolarEn LLC points out the existence of a wide variety of siliceous raw material, local experience in PV technologies, and a highly competitive research and development potential.

“From the various PV technologies analyzed, [a] few can be considered ready and some of those can be applicable for PV industry development in Armenia. Technological chains based on local raw materials and existing infrastructure can offer a certain degree of competitive advantage for investors. Today in Armenia a number of companies and organization exist that can help jump-start the PV industry development,” noted the report optimistically.

The capacity of the Pushkin Pass wind farm is 2.64 MW and it comprises four 660 kW Vestas wind turbines (Photo source: Implementation of Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism)

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a map of wind power resources with SolarEn LLC, which assesses a wind power potential of 4,900 MW from seven sites that cover an area of 979 sq km. Armenia’s Energy Sector Development Strategy includes a series of renewable energy targets that include 595 MW of hydropower, 500 MW of wind power, and 25 MW of geothermal power by 2025.

According to Vardan Sargsyan of the State University of Economics, the economically viable capacity for wind energy is comparable with nuclear in Armenia. During a 2006 NATO conference in Istanbul on energy, sustainable development, and environmental security, Dr. Sargsyan indicated that the government is planning to generate 10 percent of its electricity from wind power and that prospective sites have been identified for wind farms.

The first in wind farm in the South Caucasus was put into operation at Pushkin Pass in 2005. The total installed capacity is 2.64 MW and the “Lori 1” project comprises four 660 kW Vestas wind turbines. The wind farm was funded by a $3.1 million grant from Iran, which is also working on a natural gas pipeline and hydropower station along the border of the two countries. The project was initiated in 2002 with the support of The Netherlands and the total installed capacity was intended to be 19.5 MW using 23 turbines, and negotiations are currently underway with investors to expand the wind farm.

Currently organizations such as the Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency Fund are developing feasibility studies and offering preferential financing. At the same time, experts are nurturing the development of renewable energy through tax incentives, reviews of tariff structures, and legislation that demonstrates a commitment from the government. Ultimately the renewable energy sector can help Armenia achieve its energy independence and sustainable development goals, while at the same time emerging as a global leader in the clean energy sector.

Update: This study was adapted for publication in the January 2010 issue of the Armenian Weekly. It is also being published in German by ADK Magazine (click here for part one and part two).