Adriatic Seawater-Powered Energy System: Significant Potential for Croatia

Daniela Rogulj

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By the end of August this year, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds will announce the first call for incentives for sea energy production projects to receive European Union funds, reports Jutarnji List.

Sea energy production using waves, tides, and special heat pumps with seawater is in its infancy in the European Union. However, along with wind farms, solar, and hydrogen, it is recognized as one of the solutions in the current EU green transition.

“The Republic of Croatia has significant potential for developing renewable energy sources, especially for the application of seawater technologies. One of the solutions that could be especially applicable to Croatia, due to its long coastline, is seawater heat pump systems or SDTMV systems,” reads the public invitation of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds, which decided at this stage to encourage the production of energy from the sea to support seawater heat pumps. Namely, although there are several mentioned technologies in the range of sea energy production, the state estimated that the most interest could be for cranes, i.e., as stated in the invitation, for installing heating and cooling systems using heat pumps from offshore energy.

“Since the level of development of marine technologies in Croatia is not high, only SDTMV will be considered, crane systems that provide a generally stable and continuous source of heating and cooling of seawater that acts as a stable and reliable heat source. Therefore, although there may be high investment costs, the pilot project needs to be explored,” reads the position of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds. In any case, according to the call’s content, it is expected that municipalities and coastal cities, among others, could apply with the associated projects.

According to available data, the technology of sea energy production is already used in several locations along the coast. Currently, its application, among others, is being done by the Istrian Regional Energy Agency (IRENA) in cooperation with the City of Poreč. This is a project to install a seawater heat pump system for the Poreč city administration building. Furthermore, according to IRENA, several other public buildings near the building can be connected to the common circuit of seawater distribution as the main source of heat and thus build an environmentally neutral and financially efficient heating and cooling system in Poreč.

In addition to the coastal city and municipal administrations, marine energy production technology, judging by the experiences from Italy presented at the IRENA meetings, could use ports and marinas to deliver surplus energy to the grid. For example, in the Ancona port, according to the same source, there are plans to install 50 devices that would occupy 200 m of the coastline. The investment worth 670 thousand euros would have a payback period of nine years with an annual production of 670 thousand kilowatt-hours of electricity.

In any case, one and a half million euros are available to interested domestic scientists and investors in the mentioned call, with a minimum (200 thousand euros) and maximum withdrawal limits of 1.3 million euros per project. The share that the state is willing to co-finance in the total project budget varies from 50 percent for small to 30 percent for large entrepreneurs.

“Successfully implemented pilot projects for sea energy production would also increase the capacities and skills of suppliers and developers and consequently contribute to lower costs of SDTMV installations in the future,” points out the Ministry.

The project preparation, promotion, and management are co-financed. It is planned that the corresponding contracts on the projects that received co-financing will be signed in May next year at the latest, with the obligation to use the withdrawn money by April 2024.

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