December 19, 2005
Wind of Change For Armenian Energy Sector
By Gegham Vardanian
YEREVAN (IWPR)--A new wind power plant in northern Armenia
marks the country’s intent to develop renewable energy sources,
but it will be a long time before it offers a real alternative to nuclear
The country’s heavy reliance on nuclear power from the Metsamor
power station is focusing minds on need for alternative energy. The nuclear
plant generates 40 percent of Armenia's electricity, with much of the
rest coming from hydroelectric schemes, but its operational life is not
expected to extend for more than 15 years. European governments are putting
strong pressure on Armenia to speed up its closure.
The new wind plant, in a mountainous area known as the Pushkin Pass more
than 2,000 metres above sea level, was unveiled on December 6. It consists
of four wind turbines with a combined output of 2.6 MW.
The plant was built thanks to a $3.5 million (US) grant provided by Iran.
Iranian energy minister Parviz Fattah, who participated in the opening
ceremonies, said that his country is ready to provide further help to
Armenia in developing alternative energy sources.
“Iran wants to deepen relations with Armenia in the field of alternative
energy, and the grant that was given for the wind plant is part of this
policy,” Tatul Manaserian, an economist who sits in the Armenian
parliament, told IWPR. “Armenia is a good market and a good route
for reaching CIS countries.”
Iran is Armenia's second largest partner in the energy sector, after Russia.
It is building a gas pipeline jointly with Armenia and working to modernize
the Hrazdan thermal power plant.
Nikolai Grigorian, vice chairman of the regulatory commission for public
services in Armenia, told IWPR, “Alternative energy is one of the
basic strategic priorities for us. We should develop our own energy resources--water,
wind, sun--in order to minimize our dependence on imported energy resources--gas
and nuclear fuel--as much as possible.”
The capacity of the new wind plant is fairly modest. The turbines will
provide only enough energy to supply the nearby town of Stepanavan with
a population of 20,000 people. Armenia’s electricity consumption--mostly
met by Metsamor--is six billion kilowatt hours per year, while the new
wind plant will produce only five million kW/h per year.
Grigorian’s regulatory commission for the public sector
in Armenia has set a price seven US cents per kW/h as the rate at which
the grid buys electricity from the wind farm. The price is intended to
support the development of wind energy, but will make it costlier than
“This is the most expensive energy in Armenia,” explained
Grigorian. “Thermal energy costs a little more than three cents
and the price of the energy generated by hydroelectric plants is 4.5 cents.”
The wind plant is being managed by the state-owned High Voltage Electricity
Network company, which is also the Armenian partner in the Iran-Armenia
gas pipeline project.
"This is an additional source of funding for us, and we plan to spend
all the money that we receive from it on constructing the Armenian section
of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline," Sahak Abrahamian, director of
the High Voltage Electricity Network company told IWPR.
“The state guarantees that the electrical grid will
buy the wind energy and the prices will be valid for 15 years,”
said Energy Minister Armen Movsesian. “By doing this, we are creating
conditions for the development of alternative energy sources and are trying
to attract private investment.”
The minister said he hopes that the number of wind turbines
installed at the Pushkin Pass will increase as time passes and the high
winds here will enable capacity to increase as well.
The closest village to the site, Gargar is two or three kilometers
away from the wind turbines and they can be seen from there. Gargar administration
head Karen Zalinian said he welcomed the new plant, "Although we
are not [yet] getting electricity, life has revived here over these two
years of building operations. Iranian and Armenian builders have often
come here. They are saying that there will be more construction in the
The Armenian atomic power plant in Metsamor generates on average two billion
kWh of electricity per year. SolarEn, a company that has five years of
experience in the field of alternative energy, has helped make a chart
of what wind energy can supply to replace nuclear power.
“If Armenia uses all its potential for wind energy and starts building
similar plants throughout its territory, it will be able to generate annual
1 billion kWh of electric power,” said Artur Lalayan, head of marketing
for SolarEn. “That is half of the energy generated by the nuclear
Another source of electric power are small hydroelectric power plants,
of which Armenia currently has 32. Lalayan calculates that such schemes
could generate up to 400 million kW/h. "Using wind and water energy
alone, we can make up for three quarters of nuclear power, the rest can
be received from solar energy," he said.
Lalayan said that his company had installed a number of pilot solar units.
He conceded that solar energy is currently expensive but said he was convinced
that it was the future. "Solar energy is unlimited. There is so much
solar energy in Armenia that it could be sufficient for the entire planet.
This is the future of power engineering, and those who invest in this
field earlier will win more than others will later."
Gegham Vardanian is a correspondent with Internews in Yerevan.
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