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Solar energy popular down south
18 June 2010
Rapid growth of alternative energy in Ukraine has been hindered for two reasons, the high cost of such systems, and the prevailing low gas prices in the country. Nonetheless, use of renewable energy sources is becoming more popular in Ukraine. One of the most widely used options is roof-mounted solar collectors used for generating hot water. Mykhaylo Taranov, sales manager of Buderus (part of Bosch Thermotechnik) told UBI that more than 50 percent of his clients buy the systems to cover domestic energy needs and install them in private houses. Among corporate customers, the owners of small and middle-sized hotels are the most active.

UBI visited Pavel Gromovoy in Feodosiy town (close to Simferopol, the capital of Crimea). Gromovoy explained that he had installed three solar panels on his own house, covering an area of 250 sq m. “Last summer we only used 15 cu m of gas, because during this period the hot water was supplied through the use of solar energy. But during the winter we were only able to use the flat solar panel collectors for 10 days.” He added that due to use of the new equipment his gas prices had been reduced - in Ukraine the price depends upon the level of demand.

For instance, if a family spends less than 2.5k cu m per year it pays 0.5 hr per cu m, 6k cu m of fuel costs 1 hr, more (up to 12k cu m) – 1.44 hr and so on. “Our reduced consumption lets us pay just 1 hr per cu m (excluding mounting of solar panels which pushes the cost up to 1. 44 hr),” explained Gromovoy. He added that he expected the savings from the panels would cover their cost within six to 10 years.

UBI also visited Paradise Harbour, a 35- room private hotel in Semenovka village, close to Feodosiy town. The hotel was built in 2008 and last year its owners decided to install 30 solar panels. “During the summer we used 2k cu m to 3k cu m and in winter near 1k cu m of gas per month,” one of the owners, Oleg Karpov, told UBI. He said that the new equipment helps him to avoid using gas during the daytime in summer. “There were a few exceptions, such as cloudy weather, and in summer months the gas boiler is frequently turned on during the night,” said Karpov. The owners of this hotel have invested thousands of dollars in this project and believe that it will pay back their money in seven to 10 years. Another advantage of this equipment, says Karposv, is that it avoids any potential problems connected with gas delivery. In summer when the population in Crimea increases by three to five times and the consumption of hot water and electricity sharply increases there can sometimes be breaks in energy supply. That means that guests may find themselves without hot water and as a result they decide to leave the hotel. Using solar panels is seen as a way of helping to solve such problems and attract regular visitors.

Climactically Ukraine is within the middle range of solar radiation intensity which means that there is a reasonable opportunity for households to use solar panels. The average annual level of solar radiation per sq m of flat surface varies from 1000 kW in the north of Ukraine to 1400kW in the south. The duration of direct solar radiation per year maintained at 1600 to 1700 h in the north-west, 1900 to 2000 h in the central and eastern regions and 2300 to 2400 h in the south of Ukraine. Consequently, it is Crimea that stands to benefit most from deployment of solar energy systems.

Ukraine solar systems are forecast to operate with an efficiency of at least 50% and provide reduced water-heating costs from March to November in the southern part of Ukraine and from April to October in the northern part. In summer the panels can deliver 90% and in low season 50% of hot-water supply in private houses.

The payback period for the installation of solar panels is a contentious question. As long as the equipment is expensive (near E600 to E700 per panel) and the local gas price far lower than in open markets, the payback period will be relatively long. The payback period is typically one calculated by solar panel installation companies - but in practice the real period before payback can be much longer than that advertised.

For example, in some offices it is said that you can get a return on the investment in three to four years, but in fact it often takes 30 years. When selling the systems, a customer may be shown attractive figures made on the basis of the solar panel cost, which is often 40% of the total value of the entire system which can include additional transmission equipment, mounting and others elements that are not included. So consumers are advised to calculate carefully, including any hidden costs, before investing in such a project in their own house. But any move to open market pricing of gas, or incentivising renewable energy, would make the proposition far more attractive

Source: by Aleksandra Nekrashuk, Ukraine Business Insight

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