Middle East Energy June, 2007
Author(s): Heather Johnstone
Winds of change
As Iran continues to develop its nuclear power industry under the
watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the wider
international community, what few realize is that for the last 13
years it has been quietly developing a domestic wind power industry.
Iran is a country rich in fossil fuels. Its proven oil reserves are
estimated to represent 10 per cent of the world's total, while its
recoverable coal reserves are around 420 million tonnes. Furthermore,
its natural gas reserves are estimated to be 25.5 trillion m3, second
only to Russia in size. Thus, it is unsurprising that this country
relies heavily on fossil fuels to meet its growing energy needs.
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Manjil in the northwest province of Gilan is home to one of the few
wind farms in the Middle East region
As a consequence of this reliance its atmospheric emissions of carbon
dioxide (CO2) are steadily rising. According to the USA's Energy
Information Agency, Iran's CO2 emissions rose almost 40 per cent to
109.61 million tonnes of carbon (equivalent) between 1994 and 2004. In
an effort to address this growing problem the government is looking at
various ways to reduce these emissions.
The greater use of natural gas for electricity generation through the
construction of combined-cycle plants is being encouraged. The
government is also keen to expand its nuclear power industry, and has
indicated that it plans to build 6000 MW of additional nuclear
capacity. It also wants to develop its own uranium enrichment
programme, but this is bringing it into conflict with the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over fears that this might
enable it to develop a weapons capability.
What few realize, however, is that since the mid-1990s Iran has been
quietly developing a wind power industry. In this article, which is
based on a paper by Professor M. Ameri and M. Ghadri presented at this
year's POWER-GEN Middle East in Bahrain, we chart this burgeoning
Iranian industry's development.
Why wind power?
Iran has a strategic geographical position in the Middle East. It not
only borders the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea,
but also shares land borders with Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - a point where east truly
meets west. Furthermore, its geographical location combined with its
relatively mountainous terrain means that it can maximize the use of
the strong air currents coming from Asia, Europe and Africa.
In the mid-1990s studies to assess the feasibility of utilizing wind
power for the generation of electricity began. Using both software
simulation programmes and preliminary field studies, two sites were
identified as being particularly good locations for wind farms.
The first is the area around the city of Manjil in the northwest
province of Gilan. It is known as the windy city of Iran because of
its location in the Alborz mountain range. The city is located in a
small valley, which funnels the wind through the city on its way to
the Qazvin plateau. Wind speeds of up to 11 metres per second (m/s)
have been recorded in the area. The second site is at Dyzbad, which is
located in the northeast of Iran, near the holy city of Mashhad.
Manjil wind farm
The Manjil wind farm comprises several different sites in the area.
The Manjil site is located southeast of the Sefid-rud dam and covers
an area of 2 million m2. Currently 31 wind turbines are in operation,
with another 19 turbines due to be installed in the near future. The
Rudbar site is located in a high altitude, rural area outside Manjil
and covers an area of 200 000 m2. At the moment four wind turbines -
three 550 kW and one 500 kW - are operating, but the installation of
four more is anticipated. Finally, the Harzevil site is northeast of
Manjil and is 650 000 m2 in size. Twelve turbines are currently
working, with the installation of a further two 300 kW likely.
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Annual production of electricity at the Manjil wind facility, 1996-2005
In 1994, two 550 kW wind turbines were installed at the Manjil and
Rudbar sites. Three years later, in a project financed by the World
Bank, the capacity of the Manjil wind farm was increased to 10 MW,
with the installation of eight 550 kW and 19 300 kW wind turbines.
Since those early days the capacity and number of wind turbines
installed in the Manjil area has grown significantly. The table above
shows the capacity and number of installed wind turbines over the
period between 1994 and 2005.
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Fifty-one wind turbines, with a total capacity of 21.6 MW, had been
installed at the wind farm by the end of 2004. This comprised of 27
300 kW turbines (15 in Manjil and 12 in Harzevil), two 500 kW (one
each in Manjil and Rudbar), 18 550 kW (three in Rudbar and 15 in
Manjil), one 600 kW turbine in Babaian and three 660 kW in Pas-Koulan.
In 2005, control of the wind farm was handed over to the Renewable
Energy Organization of Iran (SUNA), which is affiliated with Tavanir -
Iran's Power and Transmission Management Organization. Tavanir is an
executive organization that controls the country's electricity sector
on behalf of the Ministry of Energy.
One of SUNA's main aims is to increase the capacity of the Manjil wind
farm to 90 MW. As part of that effort 19 660 kW turbines, with a total
capacity of 12.5 MW, were installed at the Pas-Koulan site, increasing
the total capacity of this site to 14.5 MW between February and March
The installation of 12.5 MW in 2005 represented 37 per cent of the
total capacity installed over the 12-year period between 1994 and
2005. Furthermore, 2005 saw the highest number of turbines installed
in any one year, representing 27 per cent of the total number of wind
turbines installed over the period 1994-2005.
The total production of electricity during 1994 to 2005 was 296 TWh,
with 62 TWh produced in 2005 alone. This represents more than a 56 per
cent growth in production between 2004 and 2005 (see graph below).
Dyzbad wind farm
The Dyzbad wind farm is located in what can be best described as a 50
km by five km "wind tunnel", through which wind steadily flows west to
east at a velocity of 8.9 m/s. The wind energy potential of this area
has been estimated at 2000 MW.
The wind farm will eventually consist of 43 660 kW wind turbines that
can produce 28.4 MW of electricity. Currently, 23 wind turbines are in
operation and delivering electricity to the grid.
The combined total capacity of the Manjil and the Dyzbad wind farms is
currently 47.3 MW, but there are plans to increase it to 120 MW.
Furthermore, two 100 MW wind farms projects, which will be built by
the private sector, are currently under consideration by SUNA.
In November 2003, the Saba Sadid Niroo factory was also established to
manufacture, under license to Vestas, 660 kW turbines.
Although wind power generation remains modest - according to the
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in 2005 wind contributed only
0.02 per cent to electricity production - it is likely that Iran will
continue to grow and develop its wind power capabilities.
Based on the latest developments in wind turbine technology, economic
evaluation and recent research into the country's wind energy
potential, electricity production though wind power is estimated to be
For Iran's northern regions in particular, which are located far from
its main gas fields in the south, the capability to generate
electricity from wind power makes a lot of sense.