Solar Power Rising in Muslim Bashkortostan
From deep down in the Earth, 300,000 barrels of oil a day are filled in the Autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan. Nevertheless, this oil-wealthy majority Muslim nation is expanding its economic energy in the direction of up. High up into the sky to be specific. Turning its energy and attention to the bright, shining sun, Bashkortostan’s solar power industry is on the rise.
Solar Power Rising in Bashkortostan
Partnering with the Government of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Hevel Solar LLC signed an agreement to develop seven solar power plants in the region over the next three years. The agreement was signed at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg in May 2014 between Hevel CEO Igor Akhmerov and Bashkortostan Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Sharonov.
Aiming to build 59 MW of photovoltaic (PV) plants in Bashkortostan, also known as Bashkiria, construction recently began in Bugulchan for a 5-MW solar power park, scheduled to go online in July 2015. Hevel is also planning to start construction this month on a 10-MW solar power plant in Bashkortostan’s Buribay Village. By the end of 2015, the solar power produced from these plants is scheduled for sale on Russia’s wholesale electricity market. By 2018, the total investment in the Hevel solar power projects is estimated at RUB 6 billion ($112 M).
Handling design and production of solar PV modules, Hevel recently announced Russia’s first full-cycle PV module manufacturing plant is now online. Likewise, handling integration and operation of solar power plants, Hevel brought Russia’s largest solar power plant online in 2014.
Bashkortostan, a Bridge Between Europe and Asia
A former Soviet state, Bashkortostan is now an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation. The country is an economic springboard for Russia into Central Asia and even further east into the East Asian economies. Nestled in Russia’s Volga region with a cultural “foot” in Europe and in Asia, Bashkortostan is a classic Eurasian nation. The Ural Mountain chain, running through the Republic of Bashkortostan from north to south, forms the geological border between east and west.
As part of the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Campaign, WWF’s Ural office was established in the capital city of Ufa. The Bashkortostan Presidential Gift to the Earth, made in 1999 to the Living Planet Campaign, enables WWF to enlarge and develop the system of protected natural areas in the beautiful, forested Ural Mountains.
Bashkortostan has been the historic home of the Bashkirs, a Muslim Turkic tribe who controlled most of the southern Ural Mountain region prior to Russian colonization in 1552 and again in the 1920’s. Islam spread to Bashkortostan during the 10th century, and by the 14th century had become the dominant religious force in the nation. Today the ethnic Bashkirs represent only one-third of Bashkortostan’s population, but their’s is the dominant dialect in the nation.
Bashkortostan’s capital, Ufa, is still today an important city in the Muslim world, being the seat of the Grand Mufti of Russia. Sunni Islam is also still the predominant faith in the region, according to a 2012 official survey, representing 38% of the population. The relations among the multicultural communities are good, with little tension between the various faiths. 25% are Russian Orthodox, and 15% are “spiritual but not religious.” The rest of the population in fractions under 8% are other Christian denominations, Atheist, Pagan, and Jewish. There is a historic Jewish synagogue in Ufa, and a new Jewish Community Center was built in 2008 to serve a community of around 13,000 Jews.
Looking Up Into the Clean Energy Future
One of the few regions to send more revenue to Moscow than it receives, Bashkortostan has significant economic, manufacturing, and research potential. In terms of oil reserves and mineral deposits, it is one of the richest Muslim countries. However, the limitations of fossil fuel production into the future are well understood by the Bashkort government, and clean, renewable energy such as solar power is a source of major focus for the nation’s bright future.
As a sustainable, clean alternative to conventional energy, Bashkortostan will rely on Hevel Solar to provide beginning-to-end solar power services. Founded in 2009, Hevel is a joint venture between local asset management group Renova and nanotechnology firm OJSC RUSNANO. With solar power projects in the pipeline exceeding 250 MW, Hevel consists of a thin-film solar module production plant in Novocheboksarsk, a Development Unit handling design and construction of solar power plants, and an R&D Center at Russia’s Joffe Institute of Physics and Technology in St. Petersburg.
In 2016, Hevel states that it plans to expand Bashkortostan’s Bugulchan solar power plant from 5 MW to 10, and Buribay Village from 10 MW to 20. Also in 2016, Hevel plans to start construction on a 9-MW solar power plant in Bashkortostan’s Isyangulovo. Pointing out that the solar irradiation in Bashkortostan is very good, Hevel noted that in its southern parts Bashkortostan is comparable to central and southern Europe, at 1.3 kilowatt hour per square kilometer.
With the government of Bashkortostan turning its economic energy and attention to the bright, shining sun, things are really looking up for Bashkortostan’s solar power industry.
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