European bank backs Kazakhstan's solar energy development

By Alexander Bogatik

Solar panels from the Burnoye-1 Solar Power Plant in Zhambyl Province are shown last September 16. [Alexander Bogatik]

Solar panels from the Burnoye-1 Solar Power Plant in Zhambyl Province are shown last September 16. [Alexander Bogatik]

ASTANA -- Sunny Kazakhstan's efforts to promote solar energy rather than fossil fuels have received a major boost from the London-based European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Under a new EBRD loan agreement, France-based company Urbasolar will build the Zadarya solar power plant (SPP) in South Kazakhstan Province to provide 14MW of electricity.

"The EBRD will be extending a line of credit in the amount of $8.8 million (2.8 billion KZT) for the construction of the SPP," the Ministry of Energy announced January 26.

"For four years, we have worked on preparing this project, and collaboration with the EBRD and local partners has been a key factor," said Urbasolar President Arnaud Mine, according to a statement on the company's website.

The Burnoye-1 Solar Power Plant is shown in a January 29 screenshot of a satellite image. [Alexander Bogatik]

The Burnoye-1 Solar Power Plant is shown in a January 29 screenshot of a satellite image. [Alexander Bogatik]

The loan agreements were signed January 13 during the 8th session of the International Renewable Energy Agency assembly in Abu Dhabi.

Aside from the EBRD loan, financing on favourable terms for the project -- up to $3.9 million (1.2 billion KZT) -- will be allocated by the World Bank's Clean Technology Fund, according to the ministry.

The plant will be constructed by Kaz Green Tek Solar, an LLP established in Kazakhstan and majority owned by Urbasolar, according to the company website.

"We are convinced that photovoltaic technology will play a major role in the electricity production of Kazakhstan and Central Asia," Mine said. "This project will demonstrate the technical performance and the economic viability of this type of plant."

A solar friendly environment

Kazakhstan, Central Asia's leading oil exporter, has made green energy a national priority.

In 2013, Kazakhstan approved plans to transition to a "green economy", and now "much attention is being paid to the development of alternative energy", Vyacheslav Rukanov, an environmentalist from Astana, told Caravanserai.

"Right now, the share of renewable sources of energy in the country's overall [electricity] supply mix amounts to a little more than 1%," he said. "As part of the government's adopted 'concept' [policy planning document], including support from the EBRD, [the government] plans to bring this indicator up to 30% by 2030."

Kazakhstan has all the conditions necessary for developing alternative energy, according to Nariman Altibayev, chairman of the Taraz-based NGO Ekopravo Taraz.

That includes "the ability to use photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electrical power", he told Caravanserai. For example, southern Kazakhstan has up to 250 days of sunshine per year.

Since 2013, 50 projects have been implemented in Kazakhstan to build or modernise solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants with a total capacity of more than 300MW, according to the Energy Ministry.

Additionally, last December, the ministry announced an agreement with the EBRD to allocate $240 million (80 billion KZT) for renewable energy resource development in the country.

Funding green technologies

"The [EBRD] has repeatedly allocated funds to implement projects in the field of green technologies in Kazakhstan ... and it is continuing to do so," said Rukanov.

Those projects have included renovation of the Shardara hydro-power plant in South Kazakhstan Province. The EBRD financed the renovation in 2012 with a loan of $61 million (19.5 billion KZT), among others, he said.

Last June, the EBRD also decided to support the construction of SPPs in Zhambyl and Kyzylorda provinces.

The Burnoye Solar-2 SPP, with an output capacity of 50MW, will be built next to the existing Burnoye Solar-1, the EBRD announced June 12. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

The EBRD is also supporting the construction of an SPP situated 130km away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with a capacity of up to 50MW, the EBRD announced June 21.

The Burnoye Solar project "will become the largest in the former Soviet Union", said Arman Tajibayev, a resident of Nurlykent, Zhambyl Province.

"The electricity produced here will provide electrical power for 40,000 households," he told Caravanserai. "We are very proud that such a grand [SPP] is under construction in our area."

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