18:03 GMT +318 October 2017

    Tidal power: the energy source for Russia's future?

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    MOSCOW. (Yuri Zaitsev, expert at the Space Research Institute, for RIA Novosti) -- Two unique tidal power plants will soon be built in Russia.

    The plants, in the White Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, are the first in Russia to be used for industrial purposes. The power plant at Mezehn in the White Sea will produce 10,000 megawatts and have the potential for twice that amount, while its sister plant at Penzhin Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, where tides reach 17 meters, will generate 20,000 to 90,000 kilowatts.

    Potentially Russia could use tidal energy to cover its current energy production and consumption needs. The Kola Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk alone could produce about 100 gigawatts from tidal plants; the average settlement north of the Arctic Circle consumes about 2 megawatts.

    The first tidal plant in Russia entered service in Kislaya Bay on the White Sea in 1968. The plant - 36 meters long, 18.3 meters wide, 15.35 meters high and made of reinforced concrete - was built in a dock near Murmansk, and then towed for 100 km to its final destination. It won a gold medal at the Expo world fair in Japan, and the technology used to build it is now used to build offshore oil platforms.

    The plant at Kislaya Bay was mothballed due to a lack of funds for its modernization in the mid-1990s, but recently commissioned again after a hiatus of almost a decade. Tides at Kislaya Bay reach 5 meters, and the plant - considered to be experimental - has a capacity of 400 kilowatts.

    The orthogonal turbine used to modernize the plant is a unique piece of engineering used nowhere else in the world. The main idea underlying it is that the turbine blades always rotate to one side, regardless of the direction of the water flow. This type of turbine has been used for many years in wind farms, and was adapted for aquatic use by the NII Energosooruzheniy research institute and built at the Sevmash facility, best known for building nuclear submarines. An orthogonal rotor means the blades do not have to be turned when the water flow changes, which reduces maintenance costs by about 30%.

    With the recent coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions, EU countries plan to increase the share of renewable energy resources by 10% by 2010. The commissioning of the Kislaya Bay plant, which of course produces no carbon dioxide, is Russia's contribution to solving global environmental problems.

    In addition to tidal power, Russia is constructing its first wind farm in the Kaliningrad Region, geothermal power is being developed in Kamchatka, an experimental testing area is being established for "small hydro-electric engineering" not far from Yaroslavl, and a federal law on renewable sources of energy is in the process of development.

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