Baseload, Hydropower, Project Development, Solar, Wind Power

Uzbekistan’s Ambitious Wind Power Target Signals New Energy Politics

After rolling out its renewable energy strategy through 2019 in April, the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan has set its sights on ambitious goals: Build three 100-MW solar power plants and generate more than 1 trillion kWh of electricity from dozens wind farms.

“The forecast potential for wind power capacity in 2019 is 520,000 MW. It is expected to come from wind plants built over the territory of 17,000 square meters. The capacity would allow us generate slightly over 1 trillion kWh of electricity per annum,” said Iskandar Basitov, deputy chairman of state-owned energy company Uzbekenergo. “And this is at a modest assessment.”

Echoing, Johannes Becker, project manager at GEO-NET, said the target is feasible, and pointed to the assessment study carried out in Uzbekistan by GEO-NET and Intec-GOPA, a engineering and consulting company, also from Germany.

 “We have made sure ourselves about the potential during the country’s wind capacity’s assessment in different locations. The projected wind capacity of 520 GW would satisfy 25 percent of Uzbekistan’s demand for energy,” said Martina Dabo of Intec-GOPA.

The ambitious Uzbek wind pursuits, some experts say, also signal the country’s cautious shift to new energy politics. Botir Khodjaev, the Central Asian country’s deputy Economy minister, said the wind power targets are realistic since developing renewable energy resources is a matter of “necessity” due to Uzbekistan’s primary fuel-energy resources composition. It currently uses 97 percent of its energy from Russian Gazprom oil and gas, 2.3 percent from coal and 0.7 percent from hydropower.

“Uzbekistan is wary of the Russian gas company Gazprom’s attempt to change the Gazprom gas supplies dynamics in the region — from Uzbek gas mining fields to Kirgizstan. Especially that Uzbekistan is irked about the Uzbek minority right abuse in Kirgizstan. Also the unsettled ‘water war’ between the countries must be taken into account,” said a Russia-born expert, who works currently in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.

During the latest water dispute’s flare-up in April last year, Uzbekistan cut gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan’s southern city of Osh. The Uzbeks also fret over Kyrgyz and Tajik plans to build massive hydroelectric dams upstream of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers. Uzbekistan believes it would deal a big blow for the downstream country’s strategically vital agricultural sector, especially cotton sector. Uzbek president Islam Karimov has previously warned that moving forward with the dam plans could lead to a full-blown war.

Based on the Germans’ developed wind atlases, Uzbekenergo singled out two areas in the Navoi region and southern Karakalpakstan for wind capacity development to meet the rising demand for electricity. The German experts advise first start harnessing the wind potential in the Navoi and Karakalpakstan regions.

Despite the recommendations, Uzbek officials believe the country can erect nearly 520,000 MW of installed wind power capacity at the areas with moderate wind conditions, slightly over 1,000 MW at the areas with good wind conditions and 765 MW in areas with perfect wind conditions.

“The Republic of Uzbekistan sees a big potential in the country’s renewable energy sources and their development is in line with the country’s energy development strategy,” said the Ministry of Uzbekistan.

The renewable opponents, however, insist the payback on renewable energy investments is questionable and point out that most of the conventional wind power plants in Central Asia are poorly adapted to intermittency.

In addition, the rural Uzbekistan public is generally against wind power development, fearing that ultra-low frequency sounds are harmful to human health.

Overcoming the technical challenges as well as the prejudices is part of Uzbekistan’s wind power agenda.

Lead image: Uzbekistan flag and map. Credit: Shutterstock.