Russian extreme: small hydroenergetics against severe Siberian climate

We can hardly imagine present-day life without electric power, demand for electric energy is constantly increasing under conditions of a rapid technical progress. At the same time, technical progress entails global climate changes, exhaustion of hydrocarbon energy resources and ecological damages caused by energy usage. That is why the demand for cheap and ecologically pure energy sources is getting more urgent. New methods for power engineering development include search for such sources.

There are several great problems in Russia which may be settled with the help of renewable energy. One of the problems is power supply to northern and other remote places where over 20 million people live; power supply of the region is not connected with the unified energy system. Fuel delivery to such places is always a problem in winter, that is why residents of the northern regions often have to be evacuated from areas developed by previous generations with great efforts. At the same time, northern regions of Russia are rich in renewable energy resources, energy of small rivers is the most popular of them. So, usage of energy from small currents at small hydroelectric power plants is one of the most effective methods for non-traditional energy development in Russia.

Advantages of small-scale hydroenergetics as compared with other traditional kinds of energy are its more economic and ecologically safe production methods. Small hydroelectric power plants preserve the natural landscape and environment not only at a construction phase, but during the process of operation as well. Small hydropower plants do not affect water quality, and water retains its original natural characteristics. Rivers remain suitable for water supply of the population, fish is also found in rivers where small hydropower plants stand. Unlike other ecologically pure renewable energy sources (the sun, wind), small-scale hydroenergetics slightly depends upon climate conditions, that is why it guarantees steady energy supply to consumers. It was believed some time ago that hydropower plants couldn’t be built in regions with extreme climate conditions where rivers freeze in winter. However, modern small hydropower plants are frost-resistant. Due to technical solutions used in designing and construction of small hydropower plants, they function even at low winter temperatures.

A Plenipotentiary of the Tyva and Altay republics for inter-regional relations, Corresponding Member of Russia’s Academy of Investments and construction, Albert Vanzha told PRAVDA.Ru correspondent about results of the work done.

- Beginning of our work with INSET was marred with a tragedy. Three winters ago, a shepherd settlement, where 700 people lived in the mountains, was nearly destroyed by a snowstorm in Tyva. There was no fuel for the diesel power plant. INSET came to rescue of the republic; it developed a concept, business plan for usage of non-traditional energy sources. As a result, “National program of energy supply in Tyva republic at the expense of non-traditional energy sources in 1997-2000” was adopted.

But before the works were started, we had to persuade the republican government of reliability of INSET’s developments. Two micro hydropower stations with the capacity of 10 kW each were delivered by helicopters to the remotest region of Tyva; anything available was used for installation of the plants. We managed to persuade independent experts of reliable work of the two units.

We achieved considerable results: in November 2001, a small hydropower plant “Kyzyl-Khaya” (capacity 3x55 kW) was launched on the Mogen-Buren river. It operated successfully even in winter at the temperature of 30-40 centigrade below zero. What is of great importance, building of the hydrosystem was provided with local construction materials only. The new hydropower plant improved living conditions of the population, people started using refrigerators, TV sets and other important domestic devices. Projects of some more hydropower plants are being worked on now.

Is the republic of Tyva Russia’s only that needs small hydropower plants? Do governors from other regions ask you for assistance in solution of energy supply problems?

They ask for co-operation because other regions learnt about INSET from successful experience of Tyva. In 1,5 years since we began working in Tyva, the republic of Altay invited INSET to the region to see the situation. Just imagine, there are some people in Altay who are still unaware of such wonder as an electric lamp! At the time when central regions enjoy wonders of the 21st century, these people still use kerosene lamps. Our objective is to help people of the republic to get access to useful everyday wonders that we enjoy ourselves. We are working now on a concept for small-scale power engineering in the region.

We also renewed an outdated project developed by Moscow scientists in the republic. Important changes have been introduced there, we installed new equipment; a hydropower plant with the capacity of 400 kW was set in operation in seven months. Another hydropower station is to be launched in the Kosh-Agach region in 1,5 years.

In addition to Altay, we also plan to co-operate with the republic of Buryatia, Perm and some other regions. Recently, Kaliningrad appealed for assistance.

Do you mean that large-scale construction of small hydropower stations is necessary for Russia nowadays? Is such large-scale project feasible in Russia within the nearest time? If not, why then? It is strange that INSET still exports 80% of equipment it produces. Foreign countries do need our help, but special attention is to be paid to development of Russia’s domestic market.

The experience of the small energy use in the world testifies to the need of the state support of this field. This is explained with the high level of spending on scientific and projected research and development, on the introduction of new technologies. The support on the part of the consumers of energy (those, who use hydroelectric generators) is also needed. It will be impossible to introduce small hydroelectric stations without the incentive for their development on the part of the state. All countries, which are currently showing very good results in the use of small water-power engineering, came to the realization of that. I hope that the same will happen in Russia too.

Presidential envoy in the Siberian administrative district Leonid Drachevsky conducted a session this year, which was devoted to the issues of small power engineering. Representatives of Russia’s 19 regions were present at the session. I believe that the speech from President of the Tyva republic Oorzhak Sherig-ool Dizizhikovich about the successful introduction of small water-power technologies in his region, about indisputable evidence of our positive activity in Tyva and in the Altay region did not leave anyone indifferent. At least, I would like to hope so.

Photo 1: The head of the Altay republic Mikhail Lapshin is driving an iron peg in the ground, marking the site, where a new hydroelectric power station is going to be built.

Photo 2: The head of the Altay republic Mikhail Lapshin is examining Kairu hydroelectric generator (Altay republic).

Photo 3: Hydroelectric power station Kyzyl-Khaya (Tyva republic)

Photo 4: President of the Tyva republic Oorzhak Sherig-ool Dizizhikovich is opening hHydroelectric power station Kyzyl-Khaya (Tyva republic).

Photo 5: The control room of the Kyzyl-Khaya power station (Tyva republic).

Questions were asked by Anna Radygina

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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Author`s name Editorial Team