Russia's Putin says wind turbines kill birds

KHABAROVSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that wind power can pose environmental risks, casting doubts over plans to develop this alternative energy source in the oil-rich country.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a regional conference of his ruling party United Russia in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, December 6, 2010. REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool

Putin, who has overseen all major energy deals Russia made in recent years, is keen for the country to maintain its role as a major oil and gas producer. He has repeatedly expressed his skepticism about alternative energy.

“Windmills, which are so widespread in many European countries seem to be an environmentally friendly kind (of energy), but in fact they kill birds,” Putin told a conference of his United Russia party in the Far East.

“Vibration there is such that worms come out of the ground, not to mention moles. This is a real environmental problem,” he said, adding that solar energy was the only alternative source that was entirely harmless.

Renewable energy accounts for only 1 percent of all power generated in Russia, but under a plan backed by President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s partner in Russia’s ruling tandem, this share should grow to 4.5 percent by 2020.

Germany’s Siemens plans to create a joint venture with Russian power firm RusHydro and state holding firm Russian Technologies to develop windmill parks able to produce 5 gigawatts by 2020.

Atomenergomash, a unit of state nuclear power holding Rosatom, announced similar plans and said the company was looking for an international partner, estimating the potential share of wind in Russian power generation at 5 to 10 percent.

Atomenergomash said wind power generation would become profitable in Russia after the government introduced incentives for producers.

Medvedev in May asked the government to draft proposals on mandatory purchases of energy generated from renewable sources at market prices rather than at state-regulated tariffs. There has been no response from the government to date on the proposal.

Putin complained that European and U.S. makers of equipment generating energy from alternative sources were pushing their products at the expense of Russian manufacturers.

However, he expressed support for Icelandic companies’ plans to develop geothermal energy on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, home to Eurasia’s only geyser valley.

Writing by Gleb Bryanski, editing by Jane Baird