The small village Lavrovo in the Rostov region sits at the top of the ridge, with a good view of the surrounding area. In the early 20th century, this area was the centrepiece of a coal-and-steel industrial complex. It was the ‘Ruhr valley’ of southern Russia, and the richest deposits of the hard coal below the ridge brought energy to the industrial development of the country. The wind was taken from the sails of coal mining in the Rostov region decades ago. Only nine sites are still operating and more than 60 coal mines have been abandoned. The rusting shaft towers and cone-like spoil tips are strewn across the land and are clearly visible from Lavrovo. During summertime the neighbouring fields are covered with an endless carpet of sunflowers. Soon the landscape will accommodate new landmarks.
Winds of change
Today a new industry is taking foothold in Lavrovo. Namely, the ridge has one important distinction: it acts as a barrier to the wind that blows from the Black Sea. When the wind encounters higher terrain, it accelerates, making the fields around Lavrovo a perfect landing site for wind farms. And wind power is quickly reshaping the landscape.
In October 2019, this is where the Fortum-Rusnano wind development fund launched the construction of three wind farms with a total capacity of 300 MW.
Today a convoy of vehicles is towing 190-tonne tower sections, 62-meter rotor blades and 3.8-megawatt generators to the assembly area. Once in position, the wind turbines will reach a height of 90 metres (similar to Big Ben) and the diameter of the rotors 126 metres.
In total, 78 Vestas wind turbines will be erected at the Kamenskaya, Sulinskaya and Gukovo wind farms, making it the largest wind power project in Russia so far. The wind turbines will start supplying renewable and carbon-free power to homes and industrial enterprises across southern Russia in the first half of 2020.
The Fortum-Rusnano wind investment fund has made one of the most ambitious renewable energy commitments in Russia. Construction of three wind farms with a total capacity of 300 MW allows the Fortum-Rusnano wind investment fund to reach the speed and scope required for implementation of the entire investment programme: almost 2 GW of wind generation by the end of 2023. When all these construction plans are implemented, the joint venture will become the forerunner of the industry and its portfolio will include around 56% of Russia’s wind generation fleet. The closest competitors are the Russian state corporation Rosatom and the Italian Enel.
The successful project in Ulyanovsk sets an example
The Rostov project utilises Vestas technologies that proved their efficiency during the construction of the Ulyanovsk wind farm – the first wind farm built by the Fortum-Rusnano wind investment fund, commissioned in early 2019. That wind farm was the second stage of the first-ever utility-scale windfarm in Russia, using Dongfang turbines and commissioned by Fortum in early 2018.
The Ulyanovsk wind farm lies on the banks of Volga River, opposite to the city centre. It was an advantageous and convenient location to offload heavy equipment brought here by water. Now it is one of the most popular Instagram spots in the city, local citizens even use this spot for their wedding photoshoots, which shows the highest appreciation of the beauty of renewable energy.
So, the wind farm transformed the skyline, but it also had an impact on the local community. Apart from the fact that wind power generates 8% of the region’s electricity demand, students at Ulyanovsk State Technical University now have a renewable energy study programmes and research facilities, and Vestas has launched production of composite turbine blades in the city. Renewable energy is a clear winner when it comes to encouraging investments and boosting the regional economy.
For this reason, the Rostov region, Kalmykia and other regions are now delighted to embrace the wind projects that they see as drivers of economic development.
Renewables in focus
The bigger picture is that Russia has ratified the Paris Agreement and cannot sidestep the global fight to reduce emissions and the environmental burden of the energy sector. As said, renewables are a driving force in this transition to a cleaner energy system. It is natural that Fortum, which has been successfully operating in the Russian power industry since 2008 and also has extensive experience in implementing renewable energy projects in the world, has decided to use its experience and competencies to contribute to the renewable energy development in Russia.
We are also witnessing a growing demand for carbon-free energy from the manufacturers and end consumers in Russia who are eager to reduce their carbon footprint. The agreements signed by Fortum, AB InBev and Unilever in 2018 and 2019 became practical steps to form a green electricity market in Russia and meet carbon-free demand. Under those agreements, Fortum supplies the AB InBev and Unilever production facilities located in Russia with electricity generated by its wind and solar farms.