TSAGHKADZOR, Armenia (RFE/RL) – Armenia’s first-ever major solar power plant went on stream on Friday, September 29 with a senior government official predicting the country’s growing reliance on renewable sources of energy.
The 0.5-megawatt plant has been built by a private company, Energo Invest Holding, in Tsaghkadzor, a resort town 60 kilometers north of Yerevan.
“Today is a historic day for Armenia as the first solar power plant has been connected to Armenia’s electricity networks,” the Armenpress news agency quoted Deputy Minister of Energy Infrastructures Hayk Harutiunian as saying at the inauguration ceremony.
Harutiunian said 11 more such facilities with a combined capacity of 10 megawatts will be constructed in the country by 2019. “Besides, we are holding a tender for the construction of a big solar plant with a 55-megawatt capacity,” he added, according to the ARKA news agency.
Solar and wind power currently make up only a tiny share of electricity produced in Armenia. The Armenian government has declared the spread of these renewable sources of energy a priority.
In July, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan attended the official opening of Armenia’s first factory manufacturing solar panels used for power generation. The government exempted equipment and raw materials imported by its private owner from customs duties earlier this year.
The Tsaghkadzor plant is equipped with German-made solar panels. Energo Invest Holding claims to have invested about $500,000 in its construction.
“This is a pilot project,” a senior Energo Invest executive, Liana Lobasian, told reporters. She said her company plans to build larger solar plants that will absorb “large-scale investments.”
Energo Invest is part of the Tashir Group of Samvel Karapetyan, a Russian-Armenian billionaire businessman. The Russian-headquartered business conglomerate owns Armenia’s national electric utility and largest thermal power plant. It is also expected to start managing soon country’s state-owned power transmission network.
Karapetyan was the driving force behind the recent creation by three dozen Russian businesspeople of Armenian descent of a multimillion-dollar investment fund that pledged to finance various business projects in Armenia. The fund is said to be particularly interested in hydropower and solar energy.