Search for the most effective energy sources has always been in the spotlight in the history of civilization.
Their development has been invested by huge funds. Energy sources are seen as a big advantage in getting unrestricted income and spread of influence in the international arena.
Analyzing the recurring cycles of global economic crises, many researchers come to the conclusion that the search of ways out of them naturally brings the international community to a new stage of technological progress, providing a dynamic and efficient production growth.
Thus, the way out of the ongoing global crisis largely depends on how quickly the states will be able to shift to a new phase of technological breakthrough, especially in the energy sector.
Therefore, states all over the world have been close attention to the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources (RES), mainly solar and wind. Uzbekistan has also been taking certain measures to keep abreast the global trend of large-scale energy development with the use of alternative sources.
A Way Out of Alarming Situation
The essence of the global drama that has been unfolding before the eyes of the current generation is about the significant increase of energy consumption.
Today, the amount of annually burned fossil fuel in the world is equivalent to 12 billion tons of oil, or about two tons for each person on the globe. Over the past 40 years, the amount of extracted fossil fuels in the world has exceeded the volume of its production in the entire previous history of mankind.
Fossil fuels - coal, oil, natural gas and uranium, make up the basis of the world energy balance today, while their reserves have been exhausting. Despite the currently decreasing cost of the liquid hydrocarbon in the global market, at the present level of energy consumption the world's oil reserves will hardly last for 45 years, natural gas - for 70, coal - for 150 years.
It is very worrisome that the dramatic scale of consumption and burning of fossil fuels has been causing considerable damage to the environment, affecting health and quality of people’s life, and threatening sustainability of the future development.
Large-scale use of traditional energy resources has caused global environmental problems like climate change, ozone depletion and others. The industrial emissions of carbon dioxide alone into the atmosphere exceed 5 billion tons per year, and carbon monoxide - nearly 300 million tons. The amount of harmful emissions on the globe has increased by 3.5 times compared to the ‘50s of the last century, and has a stable upward trend at that.
The way out of the current alarm situation comes to the further development of renewable energy.
A Factor of Innovative Development
The development and use of renewable energy sources in the world has been turning into an unconditional factor of innovative development. In particular, they entail the development of new technologies of electricity and heat production, enhance their energy efficiency, create new jobs, improve the quality of people’s life, while improving environmental conditions and reducing the threat of man-made disasters.
In this context, the leading states of the world are aiming to achieve 20% of the share of renewable energy in electricity generation and more by 2020. To this end, the United States and Japan have considerably increased the areas of solar collectors. About 1 million solar energy units in Israel provide 75% of the total hot water supply in the country. In Europe, annual growth of renewable energy is 40-45%. Wind energy has been rapidly developing as well.
The practice of renewable energy systems shows that they generally pay off in spite of high purchase costs and use in the initial period of operation.
Uzbekistan has a great potential of renewable energy, which, according to experts, significantly exceeds the traditional fuel resources. There are more than 320 sunny days a year, vast windswept areas, as well as mountain streams, which can be used for power generation. Meanwhile, about 97% of renewable energy capacity falls on solar energy. Wind resources, small hydro energy, biomass and geothermal energy remain a live issue today. According to expert estimates, the opportunities of using renewable energy sources in Uzbekistan are equal to the equivalent to 51 billion tons of oil. Existing technologies allow obtaining energy equivalent to 179 million tons of oil, which is three times the amount of fuel produced in the country, and prevent emissions of 447 million tons of carbon dioxide, various sulfur compounds, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. Moreover, they are the only available energy sources for communities in remote and mountainous areas.
Keeping up with the Times
Intensive research of solar energy in the 80s of the last century in Uzbekistan resulted in the establishment of the Asia’s unparalleled Research and Experimental Center of Physics-Sun of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. Its products were known far beyond the country’s borders. There is a large solar furnace with 1 MW solar concentrator, allowing to reach 30,000 degrees Celsius, ensure the production of ultra-pure materials, and conduct unique research and thermal tests.
Uzbek scientists have already developed several generations of solar water heaters, combined solar-fuel boilers, desalination equipment, agricultural product dryers, seed impulse treatment. There are activities on the direct conversion of solar energy into electricity by means of photovoltaic devices and its thermodynamic conversion into mechanical and electrical energy.
A photoelectric conversion of solar energy and its use in remote regions of the country is regarded as a very promising direction. Experimental pilot production of similar solar cells based on silicon and gallium arsenide was established in the Physics and Engineering Institute of the Academy of Sciences. Their operating principle comes to the direct conversion of sunlight, when direct current is generated. The energy can be used directly in different loads of DC, stored in the batteries for later use, and converted into an alternating current of 220 volts.
It is worth to mention the traditional annual national exhibition of innovations, where domestic researchers and experts present new ideas and products, as well as prototypes of high-performance systems, including solar panels and collectors.
For example, in 2005, Uzbek specialists produced and installed an autonomous 300 watt photovoltaic plant in Ayaz-kala camp site in Karakalpakstan, at the request of UNESCO. It has turned a remote uninhabited island into a place of comfort. An effective photovoltaic lighting system was put into operation in Namangan airport in 2008. There are many saimilar examples.
In 2012, the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan established a field training center for renewable energy sources with pilot solar, wind energy, and biogas plants in Mullah Saidqul farm in Farish district of Jizzakh region.
The sixth meeting of the Asian Forum on Solar Energy in November 2013 in Tashkent was a breakthrough in this field. As stated by the head of state at the forum, the problem of the use of solar energy at the present stage of development has been gradually shifting from the field of scientific research and experimental development to practical application, and solar power, like other forms of renewable energy, might become quite competitive, one of the purest forms , methods and ways of obtaining energy.
The establishment of the International Institute of Solar Energy in Tashkent in 2013 was a big event. It has become a regional center for scientific and experimental studies, the results of which can be implemented as promising renewable energy technologies.
A joint pilot project in collaboration with the ADB on the construction of 100 MW solar photovoltaic power plant has been in progress in Samarkand region. In the future, Uzbekistan is intending to launch the construction of several large-scale solar power plants based on new high-performance technologies. To do this, the most advanced compact automatic weather stations were installed in six regions of Uzbekistan for collecting solar energy data.
More than 10,000 modern standard design individual houses of a total area of over 1.5 million square meters are annually built in Uzbekistan under the Program of Rural Housing Development. The program envisages the massive construction of energy-efficient houses operated by solar energy technologies, using the experience of the most advanced European and Asian countries.
Works on equipping schools and colleges with solar collectors in remote and inaccessible areas have been underway. Photovoltaic panels have been installed in hundreds rural health units.
Experts of the Ecology Movement believe that the transition of internal combustion engines to cryogenic hydrogen or gasoline-hydrogen composite fuel would be most effective and economically perfect for vehicles. Numerous scientific events worldwide have been dedicated to the issue of hydrogen.The participants agreed that the widespread use of hydrogen in the energy sector is a unique chance for the humanity to survive in a world free from the environmental and social disasters.
The hydrogen production has increased significantly in the world over the last 20 years. It is projected that its further production will increase by 15-20% in the next decade. It is obvious that the widespread use of any type of fuel in industries requires at least two conditions: the optimum technology and the organization of its industrial production. At the same time, it should be affordable, and manufacture - a relatively cheap.
Issues in Priority
Meanwhile, oil and gas occupy 97% in the structure of the country’s primary fuel and energy resources, but their share is still not so significant despite the great potential of renewable energy sources.
However, the slow pace of development of renewable energy on industrial scale in our country is quite understandable due to other energy issues of primary solution.
The gross domestic product has been showing more than 8 percent annual growth for over 11 years in Uzbekistan. At such rates, the load on the power system of the country has been increasing every year. High energy intensity of Uzbekistan's economy, entailed by the operation of obsolete equipment and a high degree of network deterioration at the majority of enterprises is another important aspect. Therefore, the ‘Program of measures on reduction of energy consumption and introduction of energy-saving technologies for 2015-2019’ prioritizes the accelerated development of renewable energy sources, including the proven technologies of solar energy.
Besides, the document envisages privileges and preferences for the companies and organizations that generate energy, or specialize in the production of the plants that generate power from renewable energy sources.
It is obvious that enhancement of energy efficiency and provision of stable operation of the fuel energy complex will remain a priority. The Uzbekenergo energy saving program for 2020 envisages implementation of 54 investment projects in the electric energy sector totaling more than $7 billion. It would empower the country to ensure the introduction of additional 2,520 MW generating capacities, and laying over 548 km of power lines. At the same time, energy-saving measures will increase the amount of electricity generated by an average of 30% while maintaining fuel consumption at the current level due to lowered energy consumption.
According to domestic experts, efforts on the introduction of renewable energy sources, channeling investments, and development of new technologies and industries may be refocused only after addressing the fundamental aspects of development of the energy sector and reaching the level of world standards for energy consumption in all sectors of the economy. As a result, that would reduce emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that affect climate change.