Will Russia draw the international solar crowd?

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Looking for the next new market is a sport in the solar world. Could Russia be next? A Bloomberg story today said Russia just approved an incentive program to install nearly 6GW of renewable energy by 2020.

That much renewable energy, which could include solar, wind and small hydropower projects, would increase the renewable portion of the country’s overall power production from 0.8 percent now to 2.5 percent in 2020.

Solar equipment makers and project developers in Europe, North America and Asia are always hunting for untapped markets, preferably ones that come with government incentives. Over the past five years, countries that have become hot emerging markets include India, China, Australia, Japan and the United States. Saudi Arabia is supposed to get ready to jumpstart solar energy development, though solar companies are waiting for the government there to launch incentive program.

I’ve written little about Russia and solar over the years.  There was a financing deal for Nitol Solar, a polysilicon producer, back in 2008. Nitol apparently was taken over by a bank when it couldn’t make payment for a loan in 2011, according to a regulatory filing by Suntech Power, which bought a 14 percent stake in Nitol 2008. There also was a plan in 2009 for a 1.2 GW solar manufacturing complex in southwestern Siberia for making polysilicon, wafers, cells and panels.

Russia hasn’t been on the lips of solar companies I’ve spoken with lately, so I don’t know whether this new incentive program will make Russia attractive. Russia, of course, if better known for its big business in developing conventional energy such as natural gas.

The new renewable energy incentive program in Russia fell short of a goal set out by the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., which helps developing countries line up private investments. The goal called for increasing the share of renewable energy in Russia by 2020 to 4.5 percent, which would require 22 GW of new projects to achieve.