Kazakhstan takes steppes into wind

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

Richard Heap
July 8, 2021
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This content is from our archive. Some formatting or links may be broken.
Kazakhstan takes steppes into wind

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

This vast belt of dry grassland measures 800,000 square kilometres – slightly bigger than Turkey – and it has been sparsely populated since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also largely unforested. ‘Steppe’ means a large area of flat unforested grassland.

It is no surprise than that a biodiversity researcher in this BBC article said: “You have always this sound of wind in your ears.” That’s just the sort of comment that makes a wind developer’s ears prick up even if they haven’t previously looked at Kazakhstan.

It also helps us make sense of a colossal development announced last month.

Hydrogen hopes

On 22nd June, developer Svevind said it has teamed up with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC to develop “mega-sized’ facilities for producing green hydrogen using wind and solar power in Kazakhstan. The plan would mean using 45GW of wind and solar to power 30GW of electrolysers to create three million tonnes of hydrogen each year, for use in Europe and Asia.

Wolfgang Kropp, majority owner and chief executive of Svevind, said growth of green hydrogen would put Kazakhstan on the map for renewables investors.

"The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs... We trust that for green hydrogen, Kazakhstan is the place to be.”

But Kazakhstan has only become a place for renewables investors to be in the last few years, as the country begins to transition away from fossil fuels.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said that coal accounted for around 65% of the central Asian country’s energy mix in 2019, and will still make up almost half (49%) in 2030 under its National Green Growth Plan.

By contrast, non-hydro renewables would make up 10% of the Kazakh energy mix in 2030 in that plan, so hugely outweighed by coal. Non-hydro renewables currently make up only 3% of the nation’s energy mix, including 29 wind farms of 486MW and 44 solar farms totalling 962MW. These aren’t huge numbers.

However, change is afoot.

On 26th May, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said renewables were only an “extremely small” proportion of the energy mix and ordered the government to act faster. He succeeded Nursultan Nazarbayev as president two years ago and has ordered that non-hydro renewables should make up 15% of the energy mix by 2030, compared to the existing 10% target.

“I am a firm supporter of clean energy and green technologies as a whole,” Tokayev said. That is a contrast to the scepticism of his predecessor – even though Nazarbayev, who ruled from 1990 to 2019, deserves some credit for helping to set the groundwork for current slow growth.

In 2013, Kazakhstan launched a feed-in tariff mechanism for renewables, and kicked off auctions for state support in 2018. The energy ministry backed 148MW of renewables projects in 2020 auctions, and expects 23 projects of 381MW to complete this year. It is also planning to host gigawatt-scale tenders this year and beyond.

This mixture of natural resources and political support is attracting Svevind, as well as utilities giants such as Eni and Total Energies.

Scaling up

There is currently little detail on the 45GW complex itself, but we expect Svevind to adopt a similar approach as with the 4GW Markbygden complex in Sweden. Kropp’s firm planned and developed that complex in a series of phases, and then brought in firms – such as Green Investment Group and Luxcara – to partner on them. Svevind will need to attract investors to Kazakhstan to thrive here.

It will also give an idea of how green hydrogen can drive uptake of wind and solar in new regions. Meirzhan Yussupov, chairman at Kazakh Invest, said that hydrogen is “productive, technological and efficient” for sectors including energy and transport. He added that Kazakhstan wants to “get its niche in the world supply of hydrogen”.

Over-confident? Perhaps. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the demand side to make hydrogen a key pillar of the global energy mix.

But if that is successful then huge wind and solar complexes, of the type that Svevind is planning here, will have to follow.

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

This vast belt of dry grassland measures 800,000 square kilometres – slightly bigger than Turkey – and it has been sparsely populated since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also largely unforested. ‘Steppe’ means a large area of flat unforested grassland.

It is no surprise than that a biodiversity researcher in this BBC article said: “You have always this sound of wind in your ears.” That’s just the sort of comment that makes a wind developer’s ears prick up even if they haven’t previously looked at Kazakhstan.

It also helps us make sense of a colossal development announced last month.

Hydrogen hopes

On 22nd June, developer Svevind said it has teamed up with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC to develop “mega-sized’ facilities for producing green hydrogen using wind and solar power in Kazakhstan. The plan would mean using 45GW of wind and solar to power 30GW of electrolysers to create three million tonnes of hydrogen each year, for use in Europe and Asia.

Wolfgang Kropp, majority owner and chief executive of Svevind, said growth of green hydrogen would put Kazakhstan on the map for renewables investors.

"The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs... We trust that for green hydrogen, Kazakhstan is the place to be.”

But Kazakhstan has only become a place for renewables investors to be in the last few years, as the country begins to transition away from fossil fuels.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said that coal accounted for around 65% of the central Asian country’s energy mix in 2019, and will still make up almost half (49%) in 2030 under its National Green Growth Plan.

By contrast, non-hydro renewables would make up 10% of the Kazakh energy mix in 2030 in that plan, so hugely outweighed by coal. Non-hydro renewables currently make up only 3% of the nation’s energy mix, including 29 wind farms of 486MW and 44 solar farms totalling 962MW. These aren’t huge numbers.

However, change is afoot.

On 26th May, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said renewables were only an “extremely small” proportion of the energy mix and ordered the government to act faster. He succeeded Nursultan Nazarbayev as president two years ago and has ordered that non-hydro renewables should make up 15% of the energy mix by 2030, compared to the existing 10% target.

“I am a firm supporter of clean energy and green technologies as a whole,” Tokayev said. That is a contrast to the scepticism of his predecessor – even though Nazarbayev, who ruled from 1990 to 2019, deserves some credit for helping to set the groundwork for current slow growth.

In 2013, Kazakhstan launched a feed-in tariff mechanism for renewables, and kicked off auctions for state support in 2018. The energy ministry backed 148MW of renewables projects in 2020 auctions, and expects 23 projects of 381MW to complete this year. It is also planning to host gigawatt-scale tenders this year and beyond.

This mixture of natural resources and political support is attracting Svevind, as well as utilities giants such as Eni and Total Energies.

Scaling up

There is currently little detail on the 45GW complex itself, but we expect Svevind to adopt a similar approach as with the 4GW Markbygden complex in Sweden. Kropp’s firm planned and developed that complex in a series of phases, and then brought in firms – such as Green Investment Group and Luxcara – to partner on them. Svevind will need to attract investors to Kazakhstan to thrive here.

It will also give an idea of how green hydrogen can drive uptake of wind and solar in new regions. Meirzhan Yussupov, chairman at Kazakh Invest, said that hydrogen is “productive, technological and efficient” for sectors including energy and transport. He added that Kazakhstan wants to “get its niche in the world supply of hydrogen”.

Over-confident? Perhaps. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the demand side to make hydrogen a key pillar of the global energy mix.

But if that is successful then huge wind and solar complexes, of the type that Svevind is planning here, will have to follow.

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

This vast belt of dry grassland measures 800,000 square kilometres – slightly bigger than Turkey – and it has been sparsely populated since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also largely unforested. ‘Steppe’ means a large area of flat unforested grassland.

It is no surprise than that a biodiversity researcher in this BBC article said: “You have always this sound of wind in your ears.” That’s just the sort of comment that makes a wind developer’s ears prick up even if they haven’t previously looked at Kazakhstan.

It also helps us make sense of a colossal development announced last month.

Hydrogen hopes

On 22nd June, developer Svevind said it has teamed up with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC to develop “mega-sized’ facilities for producing green hydrogen using wind and solar power in Kazakhstan. The plan would mean using 45GW of wind and solar to power 30GW of electrolysers to create three million tonnes of hydrogen each year, for use in Europe and Asia.

Wolfgang Kropp, majority owner and chief executive of Svevind, said growth of green hydrogen would put Kazakhstan on the map for renewables investors.

"The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs... We trust that for green hydrogen, Kazakhstan is the place to be.”

But Kazakhstan has only become a place for renewables investors to be in the last few years, as the country begins to transition away from fossil fuels.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said that coal accounted for around 65% of the central Asian country’s energy mix in 2019, and will still make up almost half (49%) in 2030 under its National Green Growth Plan.

By contrast, non-hydro renewables would make up 10% of the Kazakh energy mix in 2030 in that plan, so hugely outweighed by coal. Non-hydro renewables currently make up only 3% of the nation’s energy mix, including 29 wind farms of 486MW and 44 solar farms totalling 962MW. These aren’t huge numbers.

However, change is afoot.

On 26th May, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said renewables were only an “extremely small” proportion of the energy mix and ordered the government to act faster. He succeeded Nursultan Nazarbayev as president two years ago and has ordered that non-hydro renewables should make up 15% of the energy mix by 2030, compared to the existing 10% target.

“I am a firm supporter of clean energy and green technologies as a whole,” Tokayev said. That is a contrast to the scepticism of his predecessor – even though Nazarbayev, who ruled from 1990 to 2019, deserves some credit for helping to set the groundwork for current slow growth.

In 2013, Kazakhstan launched a feed-in tariff mechanism for renewables, and kicked off auctions for state support in 2018. The energy ministry backed 148MW of renewables projects in 2020 auctions, and expects 23 projects of 381MW to complete this year. It is also planning to host gigawatt-scale tenders this year and beyond.

This mixture of natural resources and political support is attracting Svevind, as well as utilities giants such as Eni and Total Energies.

Scaling up

There is currently little detail on the 45GW complex itself, but we expect Svevind to adopt a similar approach as with the 4GW Markbygden complex in Sweden. Kropp’s firm planned and developed that complex in a series of phases, and then brought in firms – such as Green Investment Group and Luxcara – to partner on them. Svevind will need to attract investors to Kazakhstan to thrive here.

It will also give an idea of how green hydrogen can drive uptake of wind and solar in new regions. Meirzhan Yussupov, chairman at Kazakh Invest, said that hydrogen is “productive, technological and efficient” for sectors including energy and transport. He added that Kazakhstan wants to “get its niche in the world supply of hydrogen”.

Over-confident? Perhaps. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the demand side to make hydrogen a key pillar of the global energy mix.

But if that is successful then huge wind and solar complexes, of the type that Svevind is planning here, will have to follow.

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

This vast belt of dry grassland measures 800,000 square kilometres – slightly bigger than Turkey – and it has been sparsely populated since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also largely unforested. ‘Steppe’ means a large area of flat unforested grassland.

It is no surprise than that a biodiversity researcher in this BBC article said: “You have always this sound of wind in your ears.” That’s just the sort of comment that makes a wind developer’s ears prick up even if they haven’t previously looked at Kazakhstan.

It also helps us make sense of a colossal development announced last month.

Hydrogen hopes

On 22nd June, developer Svevind said it has teamed up with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC to develop “mega-sized’ facilities for producing green hydrogen using wind and solar power in Kazakhstan. The plan would mean using 45GW of wind and solar to power 30GW of electrolysers to create three million tonnes of hydrogen each year, for use in Europe and Asia.

Wolfgang Kropp, majority owner and chief executive of Svevind, said growth of green hydrogen would put Kazakhstan on the map for renewables investors.

"The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs... We trust that for green hydrogen, Kazakhstan is the place to be.”

But Kazakhstan has only become a place for renewables investors to be in the last few years, as the country begins to transition away from fossil fuels.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said that coal accounted for around 65% of the central Asian country’s energy mix in 2019, and will still make up almost half (49%) in 2030 under its National Green Growth Plan.

By contrast, non-hydro renewables would make up 10% of the Kazakh energy mix in 2030 in that plan, so hugely outweighed by coal. Non-hydro renewables currently make up only 3% of the nation’s energy mix, including 29 wind farms of 486MW and 44 solar farms totalling 962MW. These aren’t huge numbers.

However, change is afoot.

On 26th May, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said renewables were only an “extremely small” proportion of the energy mix and ordered the government to act faster. He succeeded Nursultan Nazarbayev as president two years ago and has ordered that non-hydro renewables should make up 15% of the energy mix by 2030, compared to the existing 10% target.

“I am a firm supporter of clean energy and green technologies as a whole,” Tokayev said. That is a contrast to the scepticism of his predecessor – even though Nazarbayev, who ruled from 1990 to 2019, deserves some credit for helping to set the groundwork for current slow growth.

In 2013, Kazakhstan launched a feed-in tariff mechanism for renewables, and kicked off auctions for state support in 2018. The energy ministry backed 148MW of renewables projects in 2020 auctions, and expects 23 projects of 381MW to complete this year. It is also planning to host gigawatt-scale tenders this year and beyond.

This mixture of natural resources and political support is attracting Svevind, as well as utilities giants such as Eni and Total Energies.

Scaling up

There is currently little detail on the 45GW complex itself, but we expect Svevind to adopt a similar approach as with the 4GW Markbygden complex in Sweden. Kropp’s firm planned and developed that complex in a series of phases, and then brought in firms – such as Green Investment Group and Luxcara – to partner on them. Svevind will need to attract investors to Kazakhstan to thrive here.

It will also give an idea of how green hydrogen can drive uptake of wind and solar in new regions. Meirzhan Yussupov, chairman at Kazakh Invest, said that hydrogen is “productive, technological and efficient” for sectors including energy and transport. He added that Kazakhstan wants to “get its niche in the world supply of hydrogen”.

Over-confident? Perhaps. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the demand side to make hydrogen a key pillar of the global energy mix.

But if that is successful then huge wind and solar complexes, of the type that Svevind is planning here, will have to follow.

If you could design an area for wind farms, it'd look like the Kazakh Steppe.

This vast belt of dry grassland measures 800,000 square kilometres – slightly bigger than Turkey – and it has been sparsely populated since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also largely unforested. ‘Steppe’ means a large area of flat unforested grassland.

It is no surprise than that a biodiversity researcher in this BBC article said: “You have always this sound of wind in your ears.” That’s just the sort of comment that makes a wind developer’s ears prick up even if they haven’t previously looked at Kazakhstan.

It also helps us make sense of a colossal development announced last month.

Hydrogen hopes

On 22nd June, developer Svevind said it has teamed up with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC to develop “mega-sized’ facilities for producing green hydrogen using wind and solar power in Kazakhstan. The plan would mean using 45GW of wind and solar to power 30GW of electrolysers to create three million tonnes of hydrogen each year, for use in Europe and Asia.

Wolfgang Kropp, majority owner and chief executive of Svevind, said growth of green hydrogen would put Kazakhstan on the map for renewables investors.

"The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs... We trust that for green hydrogen, Kazakhstan is the place to be.”

But Kazakhstan has only become a place for renewables investors to be in the last few years, as the country begins to transition away from fossil fuels.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said that coal accounted for around 65% of the central Asian country’s energy mix in 2019, and will still make up almost half (49%) in 2030 under its National Green Growth Plan.

By contrast, non-hydro renewables would make up 10% of the Kazakh energy mix in 2030 in that plan, so hugely outweighed by coal. Non-hydro renewables currently make up only 3% of the nation’s energy mix, including 29 wind farms of 486MW and 44 solar farms totalling 962MW. These aren’t huge numbers.

However, change is afoot.

On 26th May, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said renewables were only an “extremely small” proportion of the energy mix and ordered the government to act faster. He succeeded Nursultan Nazarbayev as president two years ago and has ordered that non-hydro renewables should make up 15% of the energy mix by 2030, compared to the existing 10% target.

“I am a firm supporter of clean energy and green technologies as a whole,” Tokayev said. That is a contrast to the scepticism of his predecessor – even though Nazarbayev, who ruled from 1990 to 2019, deserves some credit for helping to set the groundwork for current slow growth.

In 2013, Kazakhstan launched a feed-in tariff mechanism for renewables, and kicked off auctions for state support in 2018. The energy ministry backed 148MW of renewables projects in 2020 auctions, and expects 23 projects of 381MW to complete this year. It is also planning to host gigawatt-scale tenders this year and beyond.

This mixture of natural resources and political support is attracting Svevind, as well as utilities giants such as Eni and Total Energies.

Scaling up

There is currently little detail on the 45GW complex itself, but we expect Svevind to adopt a similar approach as with the 4GW Markbygden complex in Sweden. Kropp’s firm planned and developed that complex in a series of phases, and then brought in firms – such as Green Investment Group and Luxcara – to partner on them. Svevind will need to attract investors to Kazakhstan to thrive here.

It will also give an idea of how green hydrogen can drive uptake of wind and solar in new regions. Meirzhan Yussupov, chairman at Kazakh Invest, said that hydrogen is “productive, technological and efficient” for sectors including energy and transport. He added that Kazakhstan wants to “get its niche in the world supply of hydrogen”.

Over-confident? Perhaps. There’s a huge amount of work to be done on the demand side to make hydrogen a key pillar of the global energy mix.

But if that is successful then huge wind and solar complexes, of the type that Svevind is planning here, will have to follow.

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Full archive access is available to members only

Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.