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Wind Gets Underway in Georgia

Georgia’s minister of energy and natural resources, Kakha Kaladze, has announced that work has begun on the nation’s first wind energy project, planned as a 20-MW pilot installation.

This week, Kaladze said, the Ministry of Energy plans to issue permits for the land where the power station will be built, and install wind speed and direction tracking equipment.

Georgia’s wind energy initiative was announced in May, at which time Kaladze said plant operations will begin in 2014. “We have already started to prepare for using the wind farms' power," he said. "Next year the stations will be used in the pilot mode, but they will be small.” 

He said the initial stage of the project is expected to be implemented in the Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions.

The nation’s largest renewable power source is its 40 hydropower plants, with a minimum total capacity of 1872 MW. Hydropower provides 50 percent of the country’s current generating capacity, and more is under development.

According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) Renewable Development Initiative, while hydropower is king, wind and geothermal are promising resources in Georgia.  The EBRD estimates Georgia’s wind power potential at up to 2 GW, while other sources have estimated as high as 5 GW (almost half the nation’s annual energy use).

A feasibility study by Tbilisi’s Karenergo Wind Energy Scientific Centre revealed rich wind resources in the Chorokhi river gorge, Paravani Lake, the Likhi mountain range, Mukhrani field, the outskirts of Kutaisi and parts of Tbilisi, the outskirts of Rustavi and the areas between Khashuri and Gori. “We have all the materials needed to start building wind turbines there but interest in it isn’t high enough,” said Archil Zedginidze, Karenergo’s director.

“We had several business negotiations with American and Japanese investors, but in the end they were rejected,” Zedginidze continued. “In my opinion the legislation has to be changed and suited to the needs of potential investors in this field. At least they need a guarantee that wind energy would be purchased and the price also has to be defined beforehand. So attractive legislation and tariffs are essential.” Georgia currently has no wind policy in place, and no greenhouse gas reduction obligation under the Kyoto Protocol.

In an interview with Spanish journal REVE (Wind Energy and Electric Vehicle), Miriam Valishvili, Georgia's first deputy energy minister, said in 2012 that “We can’t subsidise wind energy as we have a lot more important problems. The cost of building 1 MW wind firm is €1 million, which is quite costly. This will increase the net price of energy and according to our calculations the net price of one KWh of energy is 16 cents. At the same time the areas with good wind energy potential are places where infrastructure isn’t developed at all. Constructing roads and transmission lines would take up almost half of the budget. For those reasons it isn’t worth starting and therefore we prefer to build hydro energy stations.”

“There is currently only one wind turbine in the village Skra,” she continued. “The project was funded by USAID. The prime cost of the turbine is about US $25,000. It produces only 22,000 KWh energy per year, which is enough for two families.”

“This was a pilot project and we are always open to such projects. But I think that Georgia is still far from the day when it will have plenty of wind farms,” Valishvili said.

Lead image: flag of Georgia in wind, via Shutterstock

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Tildy Bayar is a journalist focusing on the energy sector. She is a former Associate Editor on RenewableEnergyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine.

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