We sat with the General Manager of Steppe Solar, a Mongolian renewable energy company.
We are familiar with your company as you implement eco house projects. Please tell us about your company.
Our company was established in 2008 to reduce air pollution and introduce renewable energy. Steppe Solar LLC is one of the pioneers in the industry. The company has been implementing projects to solve heat supply for households with renewable heat sources or geothermal heat sources since 2009. We are the official distributor of the German Veissmann company. As part of the cooperation, an eco-house with zero heat loss, heated by geothermal heat, using solar vacuum collectors, and providing electricity with solar power generators was built.
The energy sector has become a pressing issue in Mongolia. How do you see the industry as a whole? Are there any low-cost renewable energy solutions?
The total capacity of Mongolia's energy structure is about 1,400 megawatts. It worked at its peak load last winter. It is expected that there will be overload and power restrictions are to follow this winter. No major sustainable energy sources have been built recently. Only renewable energy sources are being put into use. However, experts point out that the main problem of solar and wind energy is an unstable source. A regulating station, hydroelectric power station, or large-capacity storage facility is required to be built and used. It accounts for most of the investment. Even though the development of technology reduces the investment cost per unit of power, the energy tariff is still the bottleneck for the development of the industry. With the slow and poor development of the industry, the mining and processing industry projects have been stuck for some time now. A solution could be to use a combination of renewable energy sources to increase the power supply. For example, the operation of solar power plants in coordination with hydroelectric power plants can be a solution to the problem of system mode as well as a prospect to reduce costs. Steppe Solar has started conducting research in this regard in cooperation with a large Chinese company.
Your company installed street lighting in the city of Erdenet using solar panels. Is it possible to implement this as a lighting project in remote districts of Ulaanbaatar?
We carried out projects to provide street lighting with solar sources in the past. This time around, solar-powered lights for the roads in the mining and industrial zones. It seems factories and mines are likely to face capacity constraints in the coming years. Therefore, it is a suitable solution from the point of view of the economy and environment if the use of independent and renewable energy is resolved in this way. It is quite possible to utilize it on remote streets and squares. It is a common practice in many countries. It also has the advantage of providing certain uses of mining and processing plants with solar power generators and charge collector systems, thereby overcoming peak load costs at a low cost and not being affected by power limitations. Mining equipment has a high load requirement for continuous operation. Therefore, it is not possible to provide power from solar sources alone.
I understand that Steppe Solar was founded with the intention of reducing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar. What exactly is geothermal heat supply?
We started our activities in the field of introducing renewable heat sources. In particular, equipment powered by geothermal heat sources was introduced to the market. Although the initial investment is high, it is cost-free in the long run and requires little maintenance. Some consumers tend to focus on the initial costs and ignore the high costs of electricity and fuel of the future. The main requirement of this system is not to have heat loss. The buildings and structures in our country have much heat loss. We are working on a project in this regard . This town house project will be a 100 percent independent and environmentally friendly project that meets its specific needs with solar electricity, supports its solar heat source with gas or smokeless fuel.
– Would you sit back because the initial investment for building the heat generator is high? Or is there any other way to solve it differently?
– At first, it feels that the investment costs are high compared to the cost of the house. Also, you pay high electricity bills every month. However, after a while, the cost is the same and the house with a renewable or free heat generator is economically profitable year after year. More opportunities and options are now available to resolve the source of capital. For example, there is an option to use green credit from commercial banks. It has the potential to be solved without creating a significant financial burden for the customer. In addition, there are many solutions that solve heat loss. Eco house, passive house, zero heat loss house, etc. The main thing is to find out if there is a ventilation solution for these structures. The object should be air circulated every hour according to its volume. Circulation is also a heat loss process. We are working to study Belgian technology to solve this problem and introduce it to Mongolia.
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