Blue Energy For Green Kilowatts

Blue Energy For Green Kilowatts

The tradition of hydro power plants construction in Serbia is over one century old, but it is not as outspread as it would be necessary to produce as much energy by the renewable sources.

Exploitation of renewable energy sources has recently been attracting attention of individuals who are keen on investing in the construction of small scale hydro power plants and to join the Electric Power Industry of Serbia ˝regime˝ as soon as possible. Management company for electricity distribution called ˝Jugoistok˝ (Southeast) due to wealth of watercourses and a huge potential for the construction of small scale hydro power plants has lots of work. Dragan Rapaić, Technical Director of ˝Elektrotimok˝ from Zaječar, until recently Chief of Production in Small Scale Hydro Power Plants of the Directory Management of ˝Jugoistok˝, points out that within one year, they issued 13 technical conditions for the construction of future hydro power plants.

- ˝Our Service provides potential investors with the necessary documentation essential for the construction of small scale hydro power plants˝, Says Rapaić. ˝We provide technical support for those interested in such projects. It ranges from the planning stage to connecting to the Electric Power Industry of Serbia, and includes further monitoring of electricity production by renewable sources and supporting the production of ˝green kilowatts˝ - says Rapaić.

According to Rapaić, lately a huge interest has been shown in building hydro power plants at the Vlasina River and other watercourses in the Crna Trava Municipality. These requests are aimed at construction of hydro power plants with installed capacity of up to 2 megawatts. Future small scale hydro power plants of such power should not be neglected. The existing small scale hydro power plants at the watercourses of the Old mountain are with small installed capacity. However, this has not prevented local citizens from constructing 14 such small scale hydro power plants.

Despite a recent outburst of small scale hydro power plants in the area of ˝Jugoistok˝, few of these are legal. Rapaić states that only three small scale hydro power plants built up to now are legal. ˝The interest for building small scale hydro power plants stems from the fact that the investments pay off quick soon˝, he says. ˝However, a good location and the price of produced kilowatts are main obstacles˝, claims Rapaić. He adds that they expect Energetic Agency to set a better price and European Union to support green kilowatts.

Legal Obstacles for Green Kilowatts
At the end of last year, the Government of Serbia adopted the Regulation on charging the electric energy produced by the renewable energy sources. According to this regulation, the kilowatts produced by the small scale hydro power plants are charged according to the privileged price list and they are almost three times higher than they used to be. However, the main obstacle for gaining privileged green kilowatts is lack of contracts signed with the Power Distribution Industry of Serbia that would enable the producers to charge the green energy by higher prices. For example, Radoje Radojković from Raška, the owner of the first small scale hydro power plant, is still charging bit over 3 dinars per kilowatt. For 3000 kilowatts, he gets 9000 dinars, which is a very small amount. However, Radojković is not discouraged. Instead, he is planning to open another small scale hydro power plant in the Jošanica river, in addition to the existing plants in Raška and Kuršumlija.

Service for Production in Small Scale Hydro Power Plants of the Directory Management of ˝Jugoistok takes care of seven hydro power plants that operate within the management company. Technical support includes both investment and ongoing maintenance. Last year, all small scale hydro power plants in the area of ˝Jugoistik˝ were overviewed. Those are ˝Vučje˝, „Sveta Petka“, „Sićevo“, „Temac“, „Jelašnica“, "Gamzigrad" and "Sokolovica".

˝We concluded that all our hydro power plants need recultivation˝, says Rapaić. ˝All of the hydro power plants have total installed capacity of around 10 000 MVA. Last year, the planned annual production was 22 million and 800 000 kWh, and the achieved production was 20 million 487 000 kWh.

˝These hydro power plants primarily have a historical value for us and it is our wish to preserve them as such, and not for the sake of profit˝, says Rapaić. ˝All small scale hydro power plants in the area of ˝Jugoistok˝ need capital overhaul since their equipment is outdated˝, Rapić points out and adds that the Sićevo Hydro Power Plant near Niš is in the most critical condition. Reagrdless of how old they are, as well as their need for capital overhaul, all the hydro power plants are running. The Temac Hydro Power Plant was reactivated last year, since it had not been operating since 1990.

Electricity Seems to Be Lighter Than Hoe

Construction of small scale hydro power plants seems to have become a huge business at the Old mountain. Thirteen power plants are already running at the fast mountain rivers in the Knjaževo Municipality, and the new ones are constantly being constructed. Investments are enormous, but the profit is fast and sure, so younger population also recognised their chance to earn their living in this business. Mounain brooks and rivers rich in water flowing down the Old mountain in the Knjaževac Municipality are increasingly being used for the construction of small scale hydro power plants. 13 of these have already been constructed and a few more are under currently construction, since the local citizens and the people from the surrounding area have recognised a potential for profit in this business. Those who gain the license and ˝spin the turbine˝ are immediately connected to the Electric Power Industry of Serbia and electricity is ˝released˝ into a unique network. The ˝taximeter˝ on the electricity meter immediately starts calculating two dinars per delivered kilowatt.

˝Investments are significant, and the construction works are overwhelming˝, confesses young Ilija Minić (20). Together with his father, he has built a hydro power plant on the Crni Vrh River near Balta Berilova village, some 40 kilometres away from Knjaževac. ˝A milldam has to be constructed on the river to accumulate water, the central building built and the equipment bought and installed. Due to the nature of the terrain, we had to dig a couple of hundreds long canal to place the large diameter pipes which transport water from the dam to the power plant turbines. This cost us ˝a hell of a lot more˝, but I did not regret it.˝

This small scale power-station was activated in the autumn, two years ago, and it immediately started transmitting electricity into the Electric Power Industry of Serbia system. It has not yet started running in full capacity since it only produces three times less energy than the estimated capacity. The Minić family, who originate from Balta Berilovac, constructed the power station on the foundations of an old building materials factory they inherited. They spent the whole of last summer building it and they are currently taking advantage of good weather to complete the construction works and increase its capacity from the modest 40 kilowatts to optimal 110. The problem is that the necessary equipment cannot be ˝purchased in a shop˝, but people manage somehow. They imported the electro engine from Bulgaria for a favourable price, and they constructed the turbine together with a famous craftsman Boško Jovanović from the near-by village Ravno Bučje, who is famous for the construction of this part which requires great skill.

˝Power station maintenance is simple – there is no need for human guards since this plant runs ˝on its own˝ and it shuts down automatically in case of a malfunction˝, says Minić. He also points out that he does not have intention to change this ˝white-collar˝ job. ˝I am not even thinking of seeking job in some other company, and why would I when I can work in my own.˝ And ˝the office˝, situated in fresh air and in beautiful nature, is very close to his home. The Minić family now lives in Pirot, but even travelling to work every day is not cumbersome for them. Producing electricity is a lucrative business which ensures good and safe profit which traditional businesses in these areas, such as livestock keeping, wood cutting and cultivating poor soil, can hardly ensure. It is very easy to calculate the profit from this investment.

When Beautiful and Useful Meet

It is not so hard to calculate the profit from producing electricity. Ilija counts by heart in a manner of an experienced manager: ˝40 kilowatts per hour times number of hours times 30 days a month times two dinars per delivered kilowatt...˝ If we apply the same formula, it is easy to calculate that the profit will be better when the power plant capacity increases to 110 kilowatts. Many owners of small scale hydro power plants mix beautiful with useful and they direct one part of clear river waters to turbines and another part to fishponds filled with trout. The profit is multiple since fresh fish costs 400 dinars per kilo. Buyers only expect to be called since these fish easily find their way to shops and restaurants in Niš, Belgrade, etc.

First private small scale hydro power plant in the vicinity of Prokuplje has started running last year. By producing ˝green kilowatts˝, Dejan Đorđević from Prokuplje, has brought an old Greek mill to life. He managed to repossess a state that had been confiscated from his family after the WWII. Zoran Milićević has followed his footsteps and he is now planning to construct two hydro power plants in Viči in Tulare and on the Restovničko Lake only three kilometres away from Prokuplje.

Profitable investments in small scale hydro power plants construction have attracted the intention of people from Toplice who recognised the enormous potential of the river Toplica for the business. Last year, the first private small scale hydro power plant came to life in Prokuplje, a place known as the Greek mill. This small scale hydro power plant at the Toplica river in a beautiful region of the Prokuplje periphery is currently producing 40 kilowatts, though its installed capacity is 75 kilowatts. Dejan Đoršević, the owner, managed to fulfil his old dream and to repossess his heritage from the place where his ancestors built a mill and build a hydro power plant.

This hydro power plant uses the Francis turbine that spends 2.5 cubic per second. The Greek mill was built before the war in the area where the Toplice river flows uphill. This unique natural phenomenon – epigyny – is found with only one more river. The part of the Toplice river which flows uphill is between a railway tunnel west of Prokuplje and the hydro power plant accumulative lake. A worker from this hydro power plant explains that the biggest obstacle to steady production is accumulation of waste. They are forced to constantly clean the waste careless citizens throw into the river to keep the hydro power plant running.

Soon, two additional small scale hydro power plants will be built on the river Toplice. Their investor is Zoran Milićević. Inspired by the move his friend Dejan Đorđević took, he decided to build a hydro power plant in Tulare-Viča. An old water mill used to be at that spot. He has collected all the necessary paperwork for the construction of small scale hydro power plant which would initially reach power output of 40 kilowatts. Investing in the construction of hydro power plant will cost Milić around 100,000 euros. It was estimated that this hydro power plant will be activated by the end of the year.

Milićević spent a few years collecting the necessary paperwork. According to him, he had to wait for seven months to get the answer from the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Water Industry. He intends to use the produced electricity for his mill in Beloljin. He is currently preparing the necessary paperwork for constructing another small scale hydro power plant at the Restovničko lake, three kilometres away from Prokuplje.

Vujica Nikić, whose power station is one of the oldest stations under the Babin Zub where the unpredictable Golema River flows, and which was activated in 1991, is content. He earns money by selling electricity, but he says that he is mostly pleased because he managed to fulfil his old dreams. Ever since he was a little boy, he has been daydreaming about building a power station and taming the wild mountain river. As a schoolboy, he even made experiments with a dynamo he filled by spinning the pedals of his bike. ˝I bought two large electric motors that run the ventilator from the old company ˝Leda˝ and that is how it all began˝ - Vujica recollects on the pioneering undertaking in the construction of small scale hydro power plant in the eighties. ˝The equipment could not be found at the market, there was lack of knowledge, but the will to succeed was abundant. Today, Vujič´s hydro power plant has two turbines that together produce 30 kilowatts, which makes it one of the strongest such facilities in this area.

Electricity Produced by Water Saves Coal and ˝Purifies˝ the Air

The tradition of hydro power plants construction in our country is over one century old, but it is not as outspread as it would be necessary to produce as much energy by the renewable sources. Current ratio of electric energy generated from the hydroelectric potential     in the
electric system can be measured in promilles, though the possibilities are far greater.  According to Rapaić, if the existing potential of watercourses in Serbia were used to the fullest, the ratio of thus produced electric energy in the power system would be four percent. This would reduce the use of other energy-generating products, such as coal and oil derivates.

Bojan Kovačić, the Director of the Serbian Energy Efficiency Agency, points out that in this part of our country, there are around 900 locations suitable for the construction of hydro power plants. Some seventy have already been built, and some thirty are under construction. But this number is negligible compared to the existing potential. Kovačić underlines that electric energy production would annually save four million tonnes of oil. To increase energetic safety and contribute to the development of individual industry branches, the state has prepared the abetment measures for the improvement in the use of renewable energy sources. The government should soon bring a decision with regards to this. Among other things, green kilowatts producers would be allowed to charge their services by the privileged prices for the electric energy produced by the renewable energy sources. They would also sign a 12-month contract to guarantee return on investments within this period of time and certain profit.

Complex regulations, local government’s delay to issue regional     legal requirements and water industry- related documentation, as well as impossibility to sell the produced electricity by profitable prices are main culprits for such a small number of small scale hydro power plants in Serbia. Still, despite the above mentioned problems, there are 31 small scale hydro power plants, that in total reach power output of 34.6 megawatts and produce around 150 million kWh per year. However, that is ten times less than their actual capacity. The number of these small scale hydro power plants is much smaller than in other European states which profited double by constructing such hydro power plants – electric energy deficit was overcome or mitigated and free access to the private energetic sector was allowed. For example, Slovenia has over 400 small scale hydro power plants that produce more than 40% of electricity from the renewable sources. In Poland, there are about 600, and in Czech, there are more than 1300 small scale hydro power plants.

Out of total hydro energetic potential of Serbia (estimated to 17 billion kilowatt-hour per year), the Electric Power Industry of Serbia has used 60%. The cadastre of small scale hydro power plants locations made by the Institute for Water Industry ˝Jaroslav Černi˝ and ˝Energoprojekt˝ 20 years ago presents a problem. According to its data, small scale hydro power plants can be built on 850 locations that is why none knows for sure how many locations suitable for small scale hydro power plants there are at the moment and what their potential is, since so much has changed in the last two decades. Stimulative prices for the electricity produced from the renewable energy sources will encourage the investors and many will question economical justification of some projects that, due to low electricity prices, have not been appealing up to know. For this idea to become a reality and for the subsidizing system to become fully realised, it is necessary to set precise and transparent rules within the new legal framework, as well as to form a special state fund. Great significance is also paid to the education of buyers that should be introduced with the plans the state has made for increasing electric energy production by renewable sources.