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№ 6 (June 2012)

Metallon and UrFU: Crafting High-Tech Independent Settlements for the Future

   We craft what others only talk about. Exploration and field work in unpopulated areas requires appropriate infrastructure for supporting the daily activities of people. This is an expensive challenge that faces any business associated with the hydrocarbon production.

By Yelena Kozlova

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   Metallon constructs such settlements using mobile and prefabricated buildings, which can significantly reduce costs. Having over 20 years of experience, the company is well aware of the need to move on in line with the needs of the time. Together with the Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Department of the UrFU (Ural Federal University) and the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation, Metallon develops the technology for comprehensive utilization of alternative (including renewable) sources of energy.

Renewable energy, a cluster approach
   “Currently remote areas require technologies that provide low-cost energy. The companies that work with these technologies use primarily monoenergetic renewable energy sources. That is, one company sells wind turbines, another – heat pumps. But they cannot cater for all the existing needs. We don’t live in Africa or at the ocean shore, so there is no guarantee that the wind or the sun can sustainably provide heat and light to the built settlements. In such circumstances, using a single source is impractical. The issue must be addressed as a whole”, says Yuri Nevyantsev, General Director of PSP Metallon.

   A team of experts from the UrFU proposed cluster approach for alternative energy as a solution to the problem of compensating volatility and low capacity of individual renewable energy sources. It is centered on the creation of hybrid systems consisting of multiple sources. The client now can choose a combination of different types of renewable energy clusters adjusted for the environmental potential of a particular region and tailored to their needs and capabilities. This solves several problems, including compensation of temporary absence of the renewable energy source, and boosting the efficiency of the supply system by creating the complex solutions tailored to a particular site.

   Integration of science and business is the future of energy-efficient technologies. Today, thanks to cooperation with the business, the developers of the cluster approach received the opportunity to move forward, adapting the existing technology to the needs of the client.

   “The cooperation of our department with Metallon opens up a significant potential”, notes Vladimir Velkin, Cand.Sc., assistant professor at the Department of Nuclear Power Plants and Renewable Energy Sources, candidate of technical sciences. “First, we will be able to work in the Russian context (that is, in light winds – 3-5 meters per second – and low-density solar wind), using the new technologies in the design of modular facilities with power plants working on alternative energy sources. Second, replication of the technology will reduce the cost of such buildings. Third, combining our efforts, we will get a strong synergistic effect. It’s in maths 1+1=2. In synergetics, 1+1=5!”

   Market launch of a new technology is always difficult and risky task. One has to prove to potential partners that the idea is viable will bring a good profit in the future.

   “We hope to run a pilot project for creating an innovative modular housing within two years. Taking into account that clients are always wary of innovations, we will try the cluster approach to renewable energy ourselves”, says Yuri Nevyantsev. “We plan to use this technology in creating a ‘green village’, which will be built in line with energy efficiency and environmental safety principles. It is important for us to show that we can implement a workable system that not only will meet the needs of real people, but also can reach a self-sufficiency level”.

   The key challenge faced by the joint team of UrFU and Metallon lies in introducing to the market a quality product that enables construction of virtually independent settlement with a maximum utilization of renewable natural resources. The results of this work will slash the amounts pumped by the production companies into residential infrastructure.

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