Respublica on GreenSol project

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One more major mass medium covered the work of our project.


Kilowatts of the Sun: how green technologies work in Karelia.

Providing electricity to places that have never seen it, without installing power lines and bringing tanks of gasoline and diesel. This task seemed impossible a few years ago, but now green technologies amake it possible to install a small power plant without harming nature. The experience of Vodlozersky Park shows how.

The term "nature protected area" combines various types of pristine corners of nature: national parks, nature reserves, and simply natural parks and botanical gardens. In most cases, they all share the same problem. It is necessary to monitor the state of the territory, and this requires electricity in the modern world, but it is impossible to install power grids in a protected area. The use of diesel generators or boilers running on fossil fuels (fuel oil, coal, etc.) is undesirable for environmental reasons.

The lack of a properly functioning power system is a common problem for protected areas in Karelia and Finland, and this is why the project "Green solutions for nature protected areas" was launched in 2018. It has become an integral part of the Karelia cross-border cooperation programme. This programme is funded from three budgets at once: the Russian, Finnish and the EU budgets. It includes about 60 different projects, most of environmental nature. One of these projects was "Green solutions for nature conservation areas", or GreenSol — short for Green Solutions.

The total budget of the project exceeded 500 thousand euros and affected three natural areas in Karelia: Vodlozersky national park and nature reserves: Kivatch and Kostomuksha. In addition, the project was implemented in Finland on the territory of the reserve on the island of Arjansaari.

A few years ago, most of the electricity in remote tourist camps and parks of nature reserves in both Russia and Finland was generated by diesel and gasoline generators, but this is not only environmentally friendly, but also costly: the cost of 1 kW of electricity received from a diesel generator costs about 40 rubles.

- In 2017, we thought about what we could do to stop petrol and diesel generators from polluting the atmosphere of protected areas, - says project manager Alexander Berdino. — It was clear to us that we need to combine the production of electric energy from the sources that do not affect the environment.

The way out was found with the help of solar power stations. The work of several of them, installed on the distant tourist camps of the Vodlozersky national park, was demonstrated to journalists during a press tour organized by ANO Energy Efficiency Centre, which is engaged in the project implementation.

Under the same sun

Solar power came to the island, where the Calypso children's camp is located, and to the Okhtoma camp, located on the East coast of Vodlozero. The principle of operation of a solar power plant is the same in all cases. A set of solar panels converts the sun's energy into electric current and transfers it to batteries. From the batteries, the current flows through the invertor to the normal network.

The solar power stations in Vodlozersky NP include a set of eight panels that can produce 250 watts each. Thus, the maximum power that the station can give is 2 kW, but the Karelian sun is not so generous and most often the transmitted power is much lower.

Later on the current supplied to the batteries. Four helium batteries are installed on the building of the island camp "Calypso", each of 200 A — a total of 800 A. How much this reserve will last depends on how you use it. If several led lamps work, the energy will last for several days, if you use an electric heater, the batteries will be dead in a couple of hours.

In order for the batteries to supply electricity to standard devices that require a voltage of 220 volts, an invertor is needed — the more powerful it is, the more "voracious" devices it can power and the faster the batteries run out. Panels, batteries, and an invertor are three essential elements of any solar power plant combined into one common system. Finding the right balance between each element is the task for specialists.

In Karelia, it is possible to use solar electricity effectively only from the late February (then reflected light from snow is added to sunlight) until October. The rest of the time, you can't do without a diesel generator.

In the national park, the busiest time is summer, and the hottest. A campfire that is not extinguished by tourists can cause a forest fire. To prevent this, at the Okhtoma camp there is a camera installed on a high mast that monitors fire situation around the clock. It can turn in different directions, zoom in on the object, and the video is transmitted to the Central base of the national Park, located 8 km from the camps in the village of Kuganavolok. Electricity generated by the station is enough for the camera itself, power Wi-Fi transmitters (in the middle of a deep forest, where there's no cell phone reception, you can now connect to the Internet).

Electricity is also enough for lighting, charging gadgets, and powering construction tools. Now two guest houses are being built at the camp at once, where tourists of the park can stay.

- Thanks to the solar system, we will install a tower with a camera and antennas with Wi-Fi, and on the territory of Calypso we will be able to observe the camp in real time, - said Vyacheslav Dedov, first Deputy Director of the Vodlozersky national park.

Usually in the summer there are several shifts of children's camps, but this year, because of the coronavirus, tent camps were suspended, so the camp can be rented by ordinary tourists.

Another fully solar-powered system is a special water heater installed on the roof of the Vodlozersky Park visitor center in the village of Kuganavolok. Such systems are familiar to those who live in the South, and in Karelia solar collectors are still a novelty. There are dacha options that need to be removed for the winter, and in Kuganavolok there is a professional system that heats water.

Similar green solutions were used in the project to create the infrastructure of the Kostomuksha nature reserve.

- The place where the project was implemented in our reserve was an art residence. This is a chamber place, it was also made as part of the cross-border cooperation programme for artists and creative people from all over the world. It's a beautiful and secluded place, but there is no electricity at all. Therefore, we decided to install a source of electricity with solar panels there, - said Alexandra Bronzova, methodologist of the international cooperation Department of the reserve.

Due to the remote location of the art residence, the management of the reserve decided to install compost toilets there. A more complex system designed for a large flow of tourists was installed in the Kivach nature reserve. Solar panels are present there too. They supply electricity to the weather station.

Pumping heat

Heating is an prominent problem for Karelia, and for nature reserves it is also difficult to solve. Coal or heating oil boilers are not environmentally friendly, and electric heating is expensive. This is why heat pumps have been installed in Kivach and Vodlozersky Park as part of the GreenSol project. Outwardly, they look like the usual air conditioners, but the principle of operation is somewhat different. The liquid pumped into the system takes heat from the environment. Refrigerants can work effectively even at minus 20 degrees, because their freezing point is much lower. Then the pump simply transfers heat from one medium to another.

- A heat pump makes it possible to get 5 kW of heat under favorable conditions at the cost of 1 KW of electricity. That is, we are able to save a lot of electricity, — said the engineer, Sergei Korolev.

The principle of operation of the heat pump is shown in this video.

Thanks to the GreenSol project, heat pumps appeared in the Kivach nature reserve — such a system was installed there at the cafeteria and the Museum building. Heat pumps allow for the use electricity sparingly, but it is impossible to install them where there are no power lines nearby, so the heating is based on furnaces at distant camps of the Vodlozersky NP and in the art residence of the Kostomuksha NR.

Life and the environment

Green energy, at least in Russia, is in its very early stages of development, but according to statistics, the market for solar power stations in our country is growing and already the total capacity of all home solar stations is several tens of megawatts.

For those whose country houses are located far from power lines, solar power, wind power and stations with an internal combustion engines remain virtually the only sources of electricity. If a house is used only in the summer, then a small block of solar panels with a couple of batteries is enough for lighting and TV operation. At the same time, you can buy a country version of solar collectors for heating water and even on a relatively cool day, take a shower in the evening with comfort. If a house is located next to a power line, solar panels can even begin to generate income. The law adopted at the end of last year allows to supply the common market with energy obtained from the sun, becoming the de facto owner of a small power plant.

The trend is such that in a few years the roofs of village houses, covered with solar panels instead of slate, will be quite commonplace.


Maxim Aliev