Accessibility links

Breaking News

How Green Was My Power Source

Irrigated fields in Zhambyl Province's Chui River Valley
Irrigated fields in Zhambyl Province's Chui River Valley
It’s strange to write an article I know I’m about to somewhat contradict just a few articles down the line.

But the dream of the governor of Kazakhstan’s Zhambyl Province is worth noting because even if it’s ambitious, it’s possible. Governor Karim Kokrekbaev is quoted in a January 22 report from Kazinform as predicting that one day in the not-so-distant future, 40 percent of the power needs in his province will be provided for by "green" energy sources.

OK. If you’ve been reading reports about Kazakhstan in the mainstream press, you’re thinking, "So what? The country is six times the size of France and only has around 17 million people. How difficult can it be to provide 40 percent of the power requirements to one of 14 provinces in such a huge and sparsely populated country, using green, or renewable, power sources?"

My response is: No one in Central Asia has done it so far, so let’s consider Governor Kokrekbaev’s vision for a moment.

First, it’s important to mention that the governor’s dream is actually part of a national program under way in Kazakhstan to develop "green" or "renewable" energy sources, and many provinces in this country -- known more for its oil production -- are implementing the green plan. Governor Kokrekbaev just seems to be thinking a bit bigger than the others.

There are more than 1 million people living in Zhambyl Province. Kokrekbaev says the provincial leaders are planning to boost electricity output in his province by some 180 megawatts.

Kokrekbaev said the Korday Wind Farm-21 project was due to start operating this year with an initial capability of some 4 megawatts but increasing within the next two years to some 21 megawatts.

Other items on the list of green projects is construction of wind farms capable of generating some 100 megawatts; a solar power plant with a capacity of 24 megawatts; and the Merken cascade hydropower project, which will add another 19.8 megawatts to the province’s electricity output.

And Kokrekbaev noted the Otrar solar power plant, which the governor emphasized was the first solar plant built in Central Asia, is already contributing 504 kilowatts, and the first wind farm built in Kazakhstan, in Zhambyl Province’s Korday Gorge, is producing some 1.5 megawatts. As for hydropower plants (HPP) already operating, the governor said the small HPP at the Tasotkel Reservoir is generating some 9.2 megawatts, the Merken HPP some 1.5 megawatts, and the Karakystak HPP some 2.3 megawatts.

The figures add up to about 180 megawatts. But is that a lot of electricity, enough to supply 40 percent of the electricity needs for a population of some 1 million?

I turned to someone who knows about these sorts of things: Richard Lockhart, senior editor at "Energo Weekly," a product of Scotland-based NewsBase Limited and a publication that deals with alternative energy resources. Lockhart cautioned about variables in such equations but he said generally that would be enough to supply a British town of some 250,000 people -- possibly only 150,000 -- if some of the power were diverted to industry.

I’ve been through the Zhambyl area a few times. It is probably fair to assume the average British household has at least twice as many electrical appliances, gadgets, and devices as the average household in Zhambyl Province and so uses at least twice the power. That lends some credence to Governor Kokrekbaev’s prediction that wind, solar, and hydropower can indeed supply some 40 percent of electricity needs in his province.

Good luck, Governor!

Coming soon, a look at the dirtier side of power generation in Central Asia in "Welcome to the Age of Coal."

-- Bruce Pannier

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


Blog Archive