Renewables in Altai, a look back

Continuing to celebrate The Altai Project’s 20th anniversary, let’s look back at our earliest work in promoting renewable energy and energy efficient green building.

At the turn of the 20th century, renewable energy – especially solar, wind, and small hydropower – was little known in Russia. At that time, Altai Republic officials were concerned about meeting the energy needs of the region, and they were actively considering proposals to build large hydroelectric dams on a number of the region’s largest and wildest rivers. Fortunately, community activists and experts defeated plans to build an 80-meter megadam on the Katun River and a cascade of smaller dams on the Multa.

Between 1998 and 2009, The Altai Project focused heavily on renewable energy and green building initiatives. We organized research trips to the United States, brought green building and renewable energy experts to Altai, donated and transported recycled and new technology, and supported projects and campaigns across the region. Our experts and funding made it possible to build two different energy-efficient strawbale demonstration buildings in the region.

Today, Altai Republic is the leading edge of Russia’s construction of large solar arrays, as well ad including community and household solar and wind infrastructure, and all of its major rivers remain wild and free of dams. The company “Solar Energy” is led by Andrei Yalbakov, a native Altaian and participant in Altai Alliance exchanges, and is one of Russia’s largest renewable energy companies. A few small communities, like Dzhazator, have installed small and sustainable hydropower facilities on smaller rivers. Today, 5 solar arrays producing 40 megawatts of solar energy provide much-needed electricity for communities and small commercial users. Herders, farmers, and ecotourism entrepreneurs use wind, water, and solar power in remote corners of the region.

Altai Republic is the only Russian region where ALL locally produced energy is produced from renewable sources!

Capacity is expected to grow to 145 megawatts by 2022, including solar, solar-diesel, micro- and mini-hydropower, and wind generation.

The success of Altai Republic can be attributed to the critical community-level support from The Altai Project’s early teams of experts, financial supporters, and green technologies trip participants, in partnership with Altai Alliance members Altai Assistance Project and Pacific Environment. The Altai Project’s renewable energy and green building programs were made possible with support from generous individual donors and foundations, including Trust for Mutual Understanding, Weeden Foundation, the Open World Leadership program, and Global Greengrants Fund.

Sources: Capacity is expected to grow, Andrei Yalbakov