Role of innovations in successful development of renewable energy resources of Kazakhstan

размер шрифта: Aa | Aa
01.10.2012 09:00

S. M. Kombarov, RER project designer, Ekovatt LLP

We do not inherit the earth from ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Indian proverb
In the view of modern ecological problems, such as pollution of the earth atmosphere and global warming, increasing consumption and cost of non-renewable natural resources, reaching sustained development is getting more important, which means more economic and effective use of natural energy resources to satisfy demands, both in present and future.

One of the ways of reaching such sustainability is to use alternative or renewable energy resources (RER), like wind, solar and water energy, which our country is rich with as well. Sustainability in economic development can be reached by manufacturing mass products with high added value, through development and diversification of non-energy export industry potential. Production of renewable energy in RK fully delivers such goals.  

As it is known, south regions of Kazakhstan, due to disproportion in location of own fuel resources, are dependant on the import of electrical power, stone coal and natural gas from the north parts of the country and neighboring countries. Electrical power has to be supplied from the country north, where there are major power generating capacities of the country, to the distance of thousands kilometers, bearing significant losses during delivery, which are burdened on the consumers. Though operation of additional North-South electrical lines can significantly reduce the electrical power deficit in the country south, the deficit of electrical power in the south is anticipated until new generating capacities are put into operation.   

PRC electrical demands create an immense electrical power market 

Besides in-house deficit, there is a great demand in electrical power from the part of PRC, our close neighbor and strategic partner, that we share over 1000 kilometers with. For the recent three decades, China has been a country with a stable economic growth, which in many spheres determines development of our economy and a whole world. It is expected that in near future PRC economy will take the second place after the USA in terms of GDP.  

China’s economy is known to make records steadily in production and wealth growth. Simultaneously, China’s demands are steadily growing as well in almost all types of energy resources, from oil and gas to uranium and coal. Fast economic growth results in the increase of electrical power consumed, it takes the first place in the world in terms of energy consumption. For example, as a part of  SCO partnership, PRC expressed its interest to import about 40 billion kW-hour of electrical power annually, which composes about a half of all electrical power produced in Kazakhstan. Electrical costs are expected to be increased both in China and Kazakhstan. In some regions of China, electrical costs are 30-50% higher than in Kazakhstan. Stable electrical power supply is one of urgent vivid goals not only for Kazakhstan, but for the neighboring countries as well.   

Natural and geographical prerequisites for effective development of RER in RK 

It is well-known, that international specialization and labor division are based on comparative advantages, natural and industrial, which allow countries creating competitive production. Besides rich non-renewable energy resources, Kazakhstan possesses rich and easy to operate wind and water energy resources located in the mountainous regions of the country south, east and center, that comfortably adjacent to major markets both domestic and foreign, like China, Russia and other Middle Asian countries. There are also several mountainous paths handy for construction of additional electrical lines. Application of these renewable wind, water and solar energy resources is still in its embryonic state, despite of significant potential of the country in this field.   

Especially rich wind power potential in Kazakhstan is possessed by the well-known Dzungarian Gates, an 80 m long and 15 m wide sparsely populated flat path, stretching from Zhalanashkol Lake to Dostyk railway station. The wind in this corridor has two main alternating directions. The wind power potential of one Dzungarian Gates only, reaching by optimistic estimations over 1 trillion kW-hours a year, is sufficient for tenfold satisfaction of demands of a whole domestic market of Kazakhstan, as well as for export to adjacent regions of China. Similar wind direction is at the Korday Pass and a wider Shelek Corridor stretching from Chinese frontiers to Almaty suburb.        

In addition, this region has tens of small mountainous rivers with significant water resources to produce electrical power. These favorable natural factors let construction of an integrated complex of environmentally safe water and wind power stations. Power energy of these renewable energy resources ideally complement each other: the peak of wind power is reached in winters while the peak of water energy is in summer time. So total volume of power produced from these resources will be permanent year round. The availability of such stocks of RER gives Kazakhstan a significant competitive advantage for a large scale production, consumption and export of cheap and renewable types of environmentally friendly energy.

These exclusively favorable natural factors in combination with the growing demands for energy, both domestic and foreign, create a challenge in the RER development in Kazakhstan, both attractive and prioritized, that can be compared with oil and gas sector development. Wind power potential of the Dzungarian Gates, along with the near-border wider Shelek Corridor and other sites, was highly assessed by independent RISO specialists, Denmark, as well as in the frame of a joint project of the UN and Kazakhstani government. As a part of the law on support to RER and the law on Investments, Kazakhstan provides for the corresponding tax preferences, including free transportation, priority of traffic control and purchase of electrical power produced by RER. Besides, Kazakhstan should develop non-carbon energy as a part of the UN Kyoto Protocol on Global Climate Change, which Kazakhstan joined in March, 2009. A full-scale and economically efficient development of non-traditional energy resources may provide a huge economic benefit resulting from savings and introduction of excess quotes for carbon monoxide emissions.     

Currently, Kazakhstan, playing an important role as a regional supplier of hydrocarbons thanks to its location and unique RER, has all chances not only to expand and keep its position in future, but also to create high-class manufactures ensuring high added value for decades.

RER development may succeed through own industry only

Along with this, Kazakhstan has an issue getting more and more urgent that relates to further development of non-energy sector of economy, sustainability, ensuring own and regional energy security, as well as a more effective use of own geographic and traffic potential. Kazakhstan should use all its advantages and natural resources possessed in a more effective way in order to fully use opportunities provided by steady growth of economy of our eastern neighbor. 

According to Michael Porter, professor of Harvard University (USA) and a well-known researcher in a field of competitiveness, the availability of the following factors speak for the opportunities to establish a world class industry in Kazakhstan integrating all industrial stages from design research and experimental to manufacturing, construction and operation of electrical power generating capacities based on RER: 

Conditions to reach RER success in Kazakhstan 

Conditions

•    Wind potential of tens of thousands MW (about 10 MW/km2) or over 1 trillion kW-hours a year is one of the best in the world;
•    Water energy potential is thousands of MW;
•    Favorable solar climate;
•    Close to major large markets;
•    Far from big centers of electrical power consumption in the south of Kazakhstan using traditional energy resources.

    Market

•    High demand for energy on domestic and external neighbor markets;
•    Potential volume of the electrical power market is up to 50 billion kW-h a year;
•    Diversification of export potential thru non-energy RER;
•    Market of carbon oxide emissions quotes;
•    Transition from traditional energy sources to RER.

Associated and supporting industries

•    Development of RER will promote diversification of national economy;
•    Availability of production capacities and materials for manufacture, installation and construction;
•    Stimulating researches and innovations to create cheap and effective production technologies.  

Strategy, structure and competition

•    Strategy: sustained and expanding development of generation based on the use of capable productive and cheap RER to decrease consumption and save non-renewable hydrocarbon energy resources;
•    Structure: efficient generation, accumulation and transportation of electrical and heating energy, seasonal synergy and mutual contribution of various types of RER. High modular projects and possibility to gradually introduce investments and capacities;
•    Competition: nuclear energy based on natural resources are characterized with high expenses and relatively long putting into operation, environmental consequences, more technological complexity and remoteness of major centers of consumption, like south Kazakhstan.

According to Michael Porter, the above natural and market factors of development can be used with higher effectiveness for national economy only at availability of own manufacturing base for development of such market in a form of associated and supporting industries and infrastructures. 

Selection of approaches to optimal solution for the above conditions must be based on development of a common strategy, competition and structure of technical and marketing solutions.

For this purpose, maximum forces should be put to creation and development of RER technologies, more adapted to the conditions of the best wind regions of Kazakhstan. Due to their uniqueness this requires specific constructional and technical approaches that ensure improved cost and production indicators.

Selection of optimal strategy and technologies to achieve RER competitive advantage

To start mass production of RER in Kazakhstan, wind energy should be able to compete, in terms of cost and productivity, with traditional energy resources. Wind power in Kazakhstan has great interest due to its ability to generate into industrial volumes of electrical power transportable to remote consumers by electrical lines, as well as to use for generation of heating energy in a form of hot water. This is possible to achieve with the help of such special and constructional and technical solutions, which would fully consider and therefore use the peculiarities and the most capable potential of the best wind regions of Kazakhstan, like the Dzungarian Gates and Shelek Corridor, as well as a range of others.     

Development of these resources will ensure the highest economic effect resulting from technological disruptive innovations aimed at sustained and long term competitiveness by the following indicators:

•    Reduction of adjusted base cost per MW of generating capacity ($/MW)
•    Increase of productiveness as effective performance at full loading (hour/year)
•    Improvement of location density of generating capacities per earth unit (Mw/km2)
•    Adaptation to local natural, climatic and seismic conditions

Such innovative approach will allow improving competitive advantages of the technology compared to the existing one, and will also lead to synergy of natural, manufacturing, transporting advantages. 

According to Michael Porter, such beneficial application of the above exclusively favorable natural, geographic and market factors can be achieved subject to creation of own production of alternative energy technologies supported by national industry.

Disadvantages of operation of tower wind turbines in the Dzungarian Gates 

Industrial-scale production of wind power in the Dzungarian Gates based on cross functional tower wind turbines may be complicated by extreme wind and temperature fluctuations. Among disadvantages of such units, a major place is taken by their big mass and significant height that make them sensitive to earthquakes and often hurricanes and strong winds of over 20 m/sec (absolute maximum is 50-60 m/sec), presence of useless systems of wind search and turn in terms of one-direction winds, shortness of propellers at high wind speeds, high cost of the unit and maintenance, and their low location density.    

Besides, construction of foreign manufactured wind power stations in Kazakhstan based on cross functional tower wind turbines is expensive and, as a consequence, high or artificially backed for their tariffs pay-back. Their high cost, vulnerability conditioned on a heavy continental climate and seismicity of south eastern Kazakhstan, and low electricity tariffs may become unattractive for investors, and their erection will be extremely expensive and complex, especially, due to a lack of infrastructure and extreme weather and climatic conditions. Besides technical problems, many specialists note low capacity of tower turbines, non-reliability and high cost of maintenance, as well as low location density.    

For the purpose of more effective development of the best wind area of Kazakhstan, it is not enough to use imported technologies, but required to develop and apply such technical solutions, which will take into account their peculiarities at maximum and be free of the above disadvantages. Such turbines shall have low prime cost, high capacity and performance, simple construction and installation, as well as accessibility for Kazakh manufactures.

Conclusion

Potentials for the creation of the world class RER in our country are much higher supported with Porter’s favorable competitive factors. With this, the biggest benefit from RER development will be obtained as a result of creation and production of own wind innovative turbines in RK, providing additional cost and production advantages. Besides, it will result in further supporting and associated industries, such as construction, manufacture of associated synthetic materials, electrical and technical equipment already available in Kazakhstan.  

Therefore in this sphere Kazakhstan is better not to import ready products, as offered by Germany, PRC and South Korea, which will strengthen its position as an import consumer of inadequate and expensive technologies, which does not promote use of RER, but instead present a barrier for their use.

Therefore it requires maximum efforts to establish own industry based on the existing technological base. Of course, it is important to consider experience of advance technologically developed countries. 

RER innovative technologies shall be directed on creation of a new performant way to generate industry-scale high competitive and environmentally friendly energy, which does not require use of natural resources, high capacity network wind turbines of 100 kW to 1-5 MW, with high performance, low prime cost, higher density of location and less sensitivity to seismicity, which will positively influence the cost of a ready product, electrical power, and potential for more optimal development of available natural and market factors. It is expected that chances are good that wind energy potential will be successfully developed.

Thus, development and introduction of RER technologies in domestic enterprises will in its best way promote development of electrical and heating power production from ecologically pure and inexhaustible resources of energy, increase of non-energy potential, which means it will meet important initiative of the SPIIAD of Kazakhstan and development of “green” industry to serve as a basis for “green” energy export bridge joining Central and South East Asia and PRC.  

The SPIIAD of Kazakhstan shall aim at the country industrialization purposed at deep development of such comparative advantages as rich sources of RER.

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