Record-breaking heat with unbelievable temperatures came down on Ukraine in 2012. Corn fields were especially suffering, plantations burned down, farmers suffered great losses. One of those farmers, suffered from the sunstroke, is Sergey Omelyanenko, director of similarly-named farm in Novoukrainka (Kirovohrad oblast’). "Temperature jumped up to 40 Celsium degrees and it became very clear that corns will not survive under such heat", - Sergey recalls.
However instead of counting his losses, Omelyanenko decided to use the force-majeure for his own profit. In just a month he surprised his neighbours, installing first panels of solar power station (SPS). Now he gets 1 million hryvnyas monthly for sale of solar electric power into the national electric grid. Farmer plans to return his $3 million, invested into the SPS construction, already this summer.
Kyiv-based Rentechno was the company, that helped Kirovohrad farmer to make money out of merciless heat. Rentechno specializes on projecting and installation of solar power stations. Now in the brief-case of The enterprise was created seven years by a financier Evgeny Ladnych and engineer Dmitry Lukomskyi, now it has dozens of projected and installed solar power-stations with total power of several dozens MW. "Demand on solar batteries grows permanently for several years", - says Ladnych, director general of Rentechno company. "Power capacities increase by 25%-40% every year", - specifies Lukomskyi, Rentechno operating director, responsible for projects realization.
Ladnych, public accountant of KPMG company, and Lukomskyi, main technologist in department on production of solar elements and modules at Quasar plant, became acquainted on the wave of enthusiasm about alternative energy in the middle of the first millenial decade. They were united by interest in the vacant niche of solar energy. Ladnych already made long-term observations on alternative energy as the investments-favorable economy sector. Lukomskyi, in his turn, wanted to try himself as a joint business owner in the industry where he already made career of a top-manager. Acceptance of calculation rules on "green" tariff for electroenergy in 2009 became the starting point of cooperation for partners.
Businessmen registered Rentechno company in 2009. Initially partners wanted to build a modern plant on the production of solar panels, but Chinese producers already settled firmly at the global market. It was impossible to make price competition with them. Businessmen decided to re-structurize the company for turn-key solar power-stations engineering design and installation. In 2010 two partners were strengthed by Dmitry Ladnych, who took the role of company’s chief financial officer.
Vinnytsya-based Energoinvest company (ukr. Енергоінвест) became the first large corporate client of Rentechno, with their own solar electric station (SES) designed. In summer of 2012 the first stage of Energoinvest solar power-station began to work with 1,8 MW output power in Sloboda-Bushans’ka village, Vinnytsya oblast’.
Successful project became the best advertisement for a young company. In a year there were already six projects with 17 MW of total power in the Rentechno’s performed projects portfolio. Since then Rentechno company projected and implemented a great number of "solar" objects in Kyiv, Kherson, Donetsk and Kirovohrad oblasts. Among them there is the roof-based photo-electric station in Kherson (2012), two photo-electric stations in the most south point of Kherson black sea area (Novoalekseevka village, Genichesk district, 2013). Building of the terrain photo-electric station in Ivanivka village, Kirovohrad oblast’, became one of the most successful projects, where Rentechno performed as general contractor.
Omelyanenko, a farmer from Kirovohrad, is one of those, who took advantage of the chance to make profits out of solar energy at the proper time. His benefit is that he started to work on a "green" tariff before its cutback by Ukrainian government, and electricity price will be 0,46 euros per 1 kW*h until 2030. Those, who start to work now, since parliament made a decision about state purchase price cutback on electricity from alternative sources, will get considerably less profit from every solar generated megawatt. However prices on basic equipment fell down substantially, so status quo on the terms of recoupment is the same as before. According to Lukomskyi’s estimations, taking into account permanent tariffs growth on traditional electric power, production of electricity from solar energy is profitable in any terms.
Rentechno calculations say, that minimal power of a solar electric station to start a business on sales of electric power should be no less than 0,2 MW. Installation of a station of such power capacity will cost 200 000 euros, but it worth the effort. The benefit of such business is that electricity repurchasing price is pegged to euro currency. "This is some kind of currency risks hedging, because electric power tariff is adjusted according to euro exchange rate", - Ladnych says.
Prospectivity of every project is calculated before its start. Licensed software forecasts economic indicators of a solar station, taking into account history of regional climate for last 20 years, level of local solar activity and deterioration of photo-electric panels. According to Dmitry Ladnych, very often such calculations serve as additional argument for banks that finance alternative energy projects. "Some our clients invite bank credits, and we provide actual help here, we make financial modelling, we fight our estimates to get the financing", - Ladnych mentions.
Last year's changes in legislations about "green" tariff extend the list of Rentechno’s potential clients. According to law innovations, now not only enterprises or businessmen will be able to make profits out of solar energy, but also any house owner, by putting solar electric station on his own roof. Only limitation for private traders here is that station’s power must not exceed 30 kW limit. Proprietors of private houses will be able to sell generated electric power without any concordances and licenses, simply being connected into the general grid. "It’s very simple linking system, all these concordances and licenses are not necessary, you simply install as many power capacities as you want on your private house roof", - Lukomskyi explains.
Success in solar energy sector stimulated Rentechno founding partners to the idea of business diversification. However, there are no plans of getting outside of renewable energy framework at the moment. Now Rentechno extends its technical assortment and develops its own device on "biomass gasification". The core essence of this technology is to create certain conditions for the beginning of thermo-chemical reaction in a straw mass, made from agrocultures, which are popular in Ukraine. Because of such "decay" of biomass the process of gasification of this raw material begins, synthetic gas is produced and energy of its burning can be further transformed in electric power.
Nowadays Rentechno company works to launch the pilot machinery, its quite early to talk about commercial exploitation of this development. However this aspect of renewable energy is very promising. "Especially in Ukraine, where so many straw is left on fields after a harvest campaign, that it simply makes harm to soil", - Evgeny Ladnych says.
However, solar energy remains to be the main business area for Rentechno. According to Lukomskyi, Ukrainian climate perfectly fits for this purpose. "We have both good sun and wind, what’s why panels do not overheat. Ukraine is the ideal place for solar electroenergy", - Lukomskyi mentions.
The article was published in LANDLORD magazine, № 6-7, April 2016
interviewed by Maxim Byrowash