Why renewable energy is booming in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — On Sept. 10, Iran and Russia launched a project to add two new 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactors to the already existing 1,000-MW reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southwest of the country. The operating plant was connected to Iran’s national grid in September 2011, following a long series of delays and technical problems, and amid a dispute between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran, with a population of over 80 million, has the fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world. But despite its rich hydrocarbon resources, the country is pursuing projects to construct more nuclear reactors as part of efforts to increase its reliance on renewable energy sources as it has an advantageous topography for renewables.

Under such a policy, Iran has in the past years taken measures to increase power capacity via sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Projects to produce 600 MW of electricity through wind and biomass and the construction of a 50-MW geothermal power plant in the northwest of the country are among these measures.

According to official figures, Iran’s existing power generation capacity stands at 74,000 MW, of which nearly 200 MW is currently produced via renewable sources, mainly solar and wind. However, the renewable energy production capacity is predicted to reach 5,000 MW in the next five years, under Iran’s sixth Five-Year Development Plan that envisions the construction of new power plants with a total capacity of 26,000 MW.

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