Cyprus rooftop solar could power all homes

Solar power generated from photovoltaic panels on roofs of Cyprus homes and outbuildings could provide enough electricity to meet the needs of all domestic users – if we use the vast hidden potential across the Republic.

That would mean commercial solar power plants would only need to generate the electricity wanted by industry and agriculture, and could undoubtedly also produce a large amount of power for export.

There is much more potential from homes than you might think if you just look at the many apartment buildings in Cypriot towns, but lets start with them. Replace the water heating panels with photovoltaic panels and already you could generate a large proportion of the electricity used by occupants of the building.

In other homes, the residents’ entire needs and more could be met from their rooftops. The many villas in Nicosia, Strovolos and Cyprus’s other urban areas and big villages could be self sufficient without any difficulty.

On top of these opportunities, so where is the hidden scope for solar power? It comes from the homesteads and family land owned by thousands of Cyprus residents and expats in Troodos and other districts.

We all know people who admit they don’t do much with their historic family plot, but are too attached to it to sell up. This includes many Cypriots in North London, as they will freely concede. And one thing is certain: both sets of Cypriots would leap at the chance to make money from their old rural homesteads.

Without making claims about what the feed-in-tariffs might be in the long-term for ‘Troodos power’, it is clear that all electricity fed into the grid from such locations would be pure 100% profit, once the installations costs have been met for the photovoltaic panels and wiring.

Overall, power generated at country retreats and homesteads plus electricity from regularly-occupied urban and village properties would more than make up for any shortfall on generation above apartment blocks for the occupants below.

The amount of electricity each Cyprus home can generate will vary widely, depending on whether the panels face due south – though east or west is quite good too – and other factors like the size of the roof, shed, backyard or the aspect of the building.

But here are some general indications. A three-bedroom house I own in the UK had room on the roof for 10 photovoltaic panels, with a theoretical generating capacity of 4.1 kwh per hour. Of course, full capacity is never reached, but they have generated a bit more than 3,500 kwh in each of the last three years, ie around 10 kwh a day.

On a good day, the panels produce more than 20 kwh. While in Britain good days are few and far between, on Cyprus the majority of days are bright, sunny days and annual output from a similar array in Cyprus could usually generate more than 6,000 kwh of power.

Again, estimates of average household consumption in Cyprus vary widely, but personal experience suggests 6,000 kwh a year should be plenty, if you live a modest lifestyle and your home is decently insulated, admittedly something which is not universal in Cyprus.

It is clear that including holiday homes, country homesteads and all domestic buildings, residential property in Cyprus could easily produce enough power for all the residents.

Naturally, the power wouldn’t always be produced at the time it is needed but that is where the Electricity Authority of Cyprus comes in. It needs to start planning now to be able to accept large amounts of surplus rooftop production into the grid, and then to feed it back at times when more electricity is needed.

Make sun power on Cyprus roofs

The solar water heaters on the top of modern blocks of flats all over Cyprus are great. Here is a picture of me with the water heater for a flat I used to live in on Dervenion street in Nicosia. The time has come to replace the water heaters with photovoltaic panels.

The water heaters have been a huge success but they are not much needed in the summer when even cold tap water is often hot enough to shower under.

Modern developments and price reductions in photovoltaic technology mean that these days it would be much more productive for Cypriots to make electricity on their roofs and used some of the power to heat water as required. The rest would be free electricity for cooking, keeping the fridge cool and all the other uses.

As Eni and Total announce yet another delay in drilling for hydrocarbons off Cyprus, the government has cravenly given them an extension of the timeframe.

It is about time the Cyprus government showed some bottle. It should tell the oil companies where to go and finally switch its focus to developing the island’s vast solar and wind power potential.

The government could start by putting some urgency into its support for the development of rooftop photovoltaic power across Cyprus’ thousands of buildings.

Ministers will eventually realise Cyprus doesn’t need gas – imported as LNG or from its own undersea deposits – when sunshine and wind are so abundant. The sooner they see the light the better for everyone.

For Cyprus, free wind power is better than ‘free’ oil

The collapse of oil prices to below zero last week is bad news for the Cyprus government, which should be developing its vast renewable energy potential instead of remaining obsessed with the mirage of wealth from hydrocarbons under Cypriot waters.

The costs of pumping oil and gas from the Aphrodite field mean their selling prices would still be more than the cost of renewable energy once proper efforts are made to develop wind and solar power in Cyprus.

An unfortunate deal by the government to pay chosen renewable energy suppliers a huge 16.6 cents per kilowatt hour may have scared off many people in Cyprus from backing further wind power.

But prices of a few centres per kilowatt hour recently achieved in capacity auctions in many countries around the world have shown the way forward that Cyprus should take.

Abu Dhabi has just received a world record low bid of 1.35 US cents per kwh for a proposed new solar array. If Abu Dhabi can obtain solar power so cheaply, perhaps Cyprus could achieve similar prices? See https://www.greentechmedia.com/amp/article/worlds-largest-solar-project-will-also-be-worlds-cheapest?__twitter_impression=true

The Electricity Authority of Cyprus should invite fresh tenders for a stated amount of wind and/or solar capacity and I am certain bids would be very affordable, given Cyprus’s baking sunshine and frequent strong winds.

If the bids received were more than EAC is prepared to pay, then the authority could simply refrain from accelting any of them.

On the other hand, if the best tenders were proposing a price of a few pence per kwh, as I belive they would be, then the EAC could snap them up and finally start to end Cyprus’s appalling dependence on oil-fired power stations and start to remove the ghastly climate-altering fumes they emit.

Oil prices turned negative for the first time on record after oil producers ran out of space to store the oversupply of crude left by the coronavirus crisis, triggering an historic market collapse which left oil traders reeling.

The price of US crude oil crashed from $18 a barrel to -$38 in a matter of hours, as rising stockpiles of crude threatened to overwhelm storage facilities.

Prices have bounced back to positive but remain very low, with gas prices correspondingly weak. If current price ranges continue, as many predict, the potential cost of producing gas from the Aphrodite field or any other deep water field will remain well above the potential selling price.

Meanwhile, wind and sunshine will forever remain free to whoever can capture it. Once construction costs are paid, the ‘fuel’ of wind farms and solar arrays is free for all time and their owners can generate electricity very cheaply.

So come on EAC and Cyprus government, let’s seek out tenders for a decent amount of onshore wind and solar power and don’t just invite tenders from your cronies. Open the tenders up to global renewable energy developers like Orsted and Vattenfall.

They will be at least as eager to gain access to Cyprus’s glorious sunshine and strong winds as oil and gas producers were when they thought the Aphrodite field would be profitable.

The market crash underlined the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on oil demand as the global economy slumps.

Prospects of the Aphrodite field ever being developed are almost zero because once the Covid-19 crisis is over, the acceleration of climate changes means there will still be huge pressure for the world to reduce its use of hydrocarbons.

Oil producers have continued to pump near-record levels of crude into the global market even as analysts warned that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak would drive oil demand to its lowest levels since 1995. The emergence of negative oil prices is expected to prompt some oil companies to hasten the shutdown of their rigs and oil wells to avoid plunging deeper into debt or bankruptcy.

Brett Fleishman, from climate campaign group at 350.org, told The Guardian: “The collapse of oil prices is “another powerful example of how fossil fuels are too volatile to be the basis of a resilient economy”.

“We are experiencing an unparalleled upending in our economies. And it is time for the fossil fuel industry to recognize that, from now on, the cheapest and best place to store oil is in the ground,” he said.

“While this recession shows us that we desperately need sustainable, resilient, and stable economic systems, based on renewable, accessible and just energy sources, the fossil fuel industry is not only trying to profit off of the current chaos, but continues to drive us further into climate breakdown,” Fleishman added.

UK shows Cyprus could be carbon neutral by 2030

A plan officially launched in the UK last week shows once again that Cyprus could be carbon neutral and energy self-sufficient by 2030 if it put its mind to it, instead of still fantasising about the increasingly remote prospect of wealth from the Aphrodite undersea gas deposits.

The UK Crown Estate has invited tenders for an additional seven GigaWatts (7 GW) of offshore wind power capacity, expected to be delivered by 2030. The Crown Estate is the official body for licensing UK offshore activities and the invitation means the auction will definitely go ahead.

This vast amount is much more than Cyprus would need to meet its entire electricity consumption and the Cyprus government should immediately launch a similar tender offer which would enable the republic to finally stop using its oil guzzling power stations and disperse the carbon dioxide fumes they currently belch.

Nor should the state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus worry about having to subsidise the developers who win the bids. All the EAC has to do is accept the lowest bids and these are likely to be just a few cents per kilowatt hour, judging by recent auctions across Europe and other parts of the world.

Gone would be the cost of importing oil and gone would be the surcharges that every Cypriot electricity user has to pay because of the pollution caused by the existing generation methods.

In fact, in Cyprus, with its history of corruption, the greater fear might be that the country’s vested interests might secure the contracts for themselves. To avoid any such claims, all the EAC has to do it to announced an open auction and wait to find out who the lowest bidders are.

Major international oil companies were quick to sign up with the Cyprus government when gas was discovered under Cypriot waters, even if they are stalling now that international gas prices have plunged.

Given the strong sunlight beating down on Cyprus on more than half the days of the year, there is every prospect that major international wind power companies would snap up a chance to build wind farms off our sunkissed Mediterranean island.

Another advantage is that it would be hard for Turkey to interfere. Unlike the Aphrodite gas field, the wind farms would be only a few miles offshore, certainly to start with.

Storage of surplus intermittent wind farm electricity to be used at times of peak demand has always been possible and costs are falling sharply. In any case, the bidders for the Cyprus offshore wind power licences could be asked to include their storage proposals in their detailed bids.

The Cyprus government and the EAC should immediately start preparing a major offshore wind power auction and should be making a plan to adapt the electricity distribution grid to ensure it can handly the huge amounts of very cheap renewable electricity the wind farms will produce.

The UK Crown Estate says its Round 4 invitation to tender aims “to unlock new areas of seabed for the generation of low-carbon energy for millions more homes by 2030.”

“Round 4, our first leasing opportunity of this scale in a decade, creates the opportunity for at least 7GW of new projects in the waters around England and Wales, delivering a robust pipeline for low-cost offshore wind deployment.

“Invitation to Tender (ITT) Stage 1 for Round 4 is now open. In light of the current COVID-19 situation, we have extended the submission period, to afford bidders additional time to respond,” it said in a statement on 1st April.

“The four available seabed bidding areas for Round 4 are: Dogger Bank, Eastern Regions, South East, and Northern Wales & Irish Sea.”

The UK government itself has been backward in taking up some of the opportunities for renewable energy and other sustainable industries, as the need to battle climate change increases.

But the country has led the way in showing the potential of offshore wind power.

Britain reportedly has 9.3GW of offshore wind power capacity already operational, another 4.4GW currently under construction, and a further 20GW of projects in various stages of development (consented, in planning, or pre-planning).

There is also another 2.8GW of approved extensions projects, putting the UK on track to deliver over 30GW by 2030, according to reneweconomy.com.au (https://reneweconomy.com.au/uk-crown-estate-opens-invitations-for-massive-7gw-offshore-wind-tender-23062/)

The Crown Estate expects to award the first Round 4 licences as early as next year, and could grant leasing rights for up to 8.5GW of capacity if enough suitable bids come in.

Leasing rights are “to be awarded as early as 2021, leading to projects reaching completion and operation by the end of the decade (and) helping to meet UK energy needs for at least 60 years ahead,” according to the Crown Estate.

So come on Mr Anastasiades and your ministers, if the UK can do it, you can do it. Stop banging on about gas deposits which will never be be developed and get on with the developing Cyprus’ enormous renewable and cheap renewable energy potential.

Cyprus could export renewable energy

It is tragic that Cyprus has had to suspend tourism for an indefinite period amid the pandemic of the Coronavirus. Let’s hope the worst of the sickness is over within a few weeks and holidaymakers can once more enjoy Cyprus’s sunshine, lovely beaches and golden sands.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus government needs to look urgently at diversifying its economy so that it is less dependent on tourism. Especially because in the longer term, the number of visitors to Cyprus may ease off permanently as people take fewer flights because of climate change.

For quite a few years now the government has been pinning its hopes on wealth from sales of gas from the Aphrodite block of offshore oil deposits. But that seems increasingly unlikely as gas prices plunge and Turkey continues to cause trouble in the seas off Cyprus. Already the expected date of first gas production has been put back to 2025.

Sadly, President Anastasiades and his government still seem blind to the huge opportunities for Cyprus from wind, solar and marine power. They seem to treat applications for wind farms and solar arrays as nuisances foisted on them by Brussels.

Meanwhile, more alert governments elsewhere are raking in money from the export of renewable energy. Scotland is one country which has enjoyed a surge in electricity exports, to the rest of the UK.

In 2018, electricity exports from Scotland almost doubled from 12,868 GWh in 2017 to 24,379 GWh in 2018. Nor did Scottish domestic customers lose out. In the same year, 75% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption was from renewable sources – an increase on 70% achieved in 2017.

If cold, dull Scotland can achieve such great figures think what the potential is in warm, sunny and windy Cyprus. Let’s get cracking.

The great thing about renewable energy is that there are many ways to use it. An agreement has been signed for a Mediterranean power cable to pass through Cyprus, ideal to export that surplus electricity once it is up and running.

But even if the cable is delayed or cancelled rapidly developing storage technologies mean there will be myriad uses for spare electricity on Cyprus. Entirely new industries, perhaps. Remember that talk of an Indian company building an aluminium smelter on Cyprus. Perhaps Cyprus will soon be able to power it.

Another range of potential new uses can be found for intermittent power direct from Cyprus’ future wind turbines, solar arrays and so on. Electric cars, for instance, can be programmed to charge up only when electricity is plentiful.

Cyprus does have many far-sighted people, such as Paphos-based Alfa Mediterranean Enterprises, backers of a 50 MW solar thermal park in Alassa, Limassol.

But why has it taken six years for Alfa to win Cyprus government approval, which only came through a couple of weeks ago?

The company is definitely blaming the state for not having a mechanism to support renewable energy ventures.

“As the Cyprus energy market is incomplete, and it is still unknown at what prices producers will be selling electricity, banking institutions, especially Cyprus banks, are extremely reluctant to give out loans to these projects. That is why we need a state support mechanism,” Alfa chief executive Andreas Ioannou told the Financial Mirror.

“The truth is that if it was not for the continuous efforts of the European Union, the project would have been dead in the water a long time ago,” said Ioannou.

Why is the Cyprus government’s attitude so out of date and so far behind modern thinking not just by its leading businessmen but by a growing number of all Cypriots, as highlighted this spring when four times more drivers applied for an electric car incentive than the government was expecting?

Come on Cyprus government. Please fast-track the other renewable energy projects that are still awaiting approval. Then all that sunshine can be put to good use, powering the country and enabling Cyprus to finally get rid of those filthy oil-fired power stations.

And after that Cypriot renewable energy firms can can press on with exporting the electricity they produce or providing power to exciting new industrial projects to boost the economy further. Ministers, what are you waiting for?

Electric cars need renewable energy

More evidence that the Cyprus government is way behind the general public in understanding the urgency of decarbonising our lifestyles.

A scrappage incentive scheme launched to encourage Cypriot motorists to replace their old high-emission bangers with new electric ones has received five times the number of applications expected.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos is to propose the expansion of the scheme to include more grants for electric cars under the weight of the surprising number of applications.

“We will try to meet as many requests as we can depending on the budget available. We also discussed this with the Finance Minister, and we will have more to say on the matter,” said Karousos.

Part of a broader incentive scheme launched to encourage Cypriots to replace their old cars with newer more eco-friendly ones, the plan drew in some 450 applicants in less than two days, while it had only budgeted for 100 grants.

A budget for the programme was set at €3 mln, of which €2.5 mln was earmarked for the withdrawal of old cars and replaced with a new car with a conventional engine meeting the emissions criteria.

The subsidy of €2,000 is available for the purchase of new conventional vehicles, while €5,000 will be given for buying a new electric vehicle. This does not require the withdrawal of an old car.

Car owners replacing their older vehicle with a new electric car are eligible for both grants worth €7,000.

A great scheme in theory but it seems that the government hasn’t thought it through. Get real!

My worry is that because Cyprus is so reliant on electricity from filthy oil fired power stations, the proud owners of the electric cars will have to recharge their batteries from the EAC’s existing high pollution power.

There will still be an overall reduction in CO2 emissions but less than there would be if electric car owners were able to recharge their cars from a clean renewable electricity supply.

Come on Cyprus government, it is time you encouraged voters to apply for solar panels on their roofs and then expedited the approvals, instead of sitting on the applications for years, as it has been known to do.

Ways that Cyprus could cut all its CO2

Already the new blue-green government in Austria has vowed to make that country CO2 neutral by 2030. That’s quite a challenge but Cyprus too could achieve that target if it set out a proper plan instead of obsessing with fantasies of vast wealth from gas lying underground in the deep-water Aphrodite field.

Here are a few details of how the Cyprus government and state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus should go about getting rid of CO2 from their power stations. And ‘state-owned’ is important here because no large private generator would still allow its three main power plants to carrying on spewing out greenhouse gases from burning heavy oil and gas.

For power-producing arrays of solar panels, construction times are a matters of weeks or a few months after permissions are in place. See: https://www.infinityrenewables.com/solar-construction-process.html

Wind turbines can be erected in as little as a year for medium ones, eg 55kw, while a big 500kw turbine should be up in two years. See: https://www.renewablesfirst.co.uk/windpower/windpower-learning-centre/how-long-will-the-whole-project-take/

EAC’s own power generation system consists of three fossil-fuel power stations with a total installed capacity of 1480mwe. The latest figures I can find show that renewable energy sources contributed 9.72% of Cyprus electricity generation in 2017 and was projected to increase only slowly.

Those figures show there is a lot to but those onshore constructon times prove it would be perfectly feasible for Cyprus to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030. And it would all be onshore, avoiding clashing with Turkey in any way.

Yes, renewable power is variable but NO that won’t be a problem because companies bidding to supply renewable energy can be asked to provide their own storage to ensure they provide a steady supply of electricity to the grid.

The geography of Cyprus makes it suitable for various existing storage options, eg hydro, whereby excess daytime or windy-day power pumps water uphill to lagoons, from where it flows back to generate power at night or on a calm day. See electricmountain.co.uk for how this works. Several other storage systems are developing rapidly too – large batteries, heating mineral salts and so on.

I do see a challenge in strengthening the Cyprus power grid to make sure it can handle the input of electricity from the various wind farms and solar arrays that are needed but the Cyprus government does have a target of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and already needs to act urgently to make sure the grid can cope with a lot more renewable energy.

The EAC deserves praise for its plans to save energy, to increase energy efficiency and roll out smart meters. But the government’s fantasy about a fabled gush of golden gas from the deep water Aphrodite is still the main focus, though it is a dangerous diversion from meeting Cyprus’ long-term energy needs and few now expect Aphrodite to bring huge wealth from gas exports.

There is a much more certain way of Cyprus making money from energy exports. The seas all around Cyprus, near to the shore as well as in deep waters like Aphrodite, are a blank canvas for potential huge production of wind power. I am certain many skilled and experienced offshore wind farm developers would be thrilled to be given a chance to bid for rights.

The risk of heightened disputes between Cyprus and Turkey over offshore wind power would no greater than those currently besetting the zones where Cyprus has allocated offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation rights.

For one thing, Turkey could hardly interfere with wind farm licensing in zones just off the south coast of Cyprus, say off Pafos, Larnaca or Famagusta (Agia Napa). And if agreement could be reached, it could lead to a bonanza of wind farm development in all Cyprus zones and in Turkey itself in zones nearer the Turkish mainland.

Cyprus has already agreed to back the EuroAsia Interconnector between the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids and this cable could be used to export Cyprus’ electricity without further technical development.

More details about Cyprus’ offshore power potential in my next post, along with thoughts about wave and tidal power. Meanwhile, if Austria reckons it can be carbon neutral in 10 years, so can Cyprus. Cyprus is warmer, has much more sunshine per hectare than Austria and the Alpine country has no coast and thus has zero potential for offshore wind power.

Come on Cyprus government and EAC. What is holding you back?

Cyprus could be carbon neutral

Cyprus has vast potential for renewable energy from solar power, onshore and offshore wind and the rapidly developing marine power technologies. 

Within a few years from now Cyprus could quite easily become become the EU’s first carbon neutral nation.

 Cyprus could be the sustainable energy hub of the Eastern Mediterranean and make money from exports of carbon neutral electricity along the already-proposed underwater international power cable.

 What a great achievement that would be.

 So why are political leaders in Cyprus still focussed instead on a fantasy of huge wealth from exports of the gas discovered in the offshore Aphrodite field? 

The consortium which is supposedly going to develop Aphrodite has already put back the first possible production date to 2025 and further drilling this year could change the timetable again.

My prediction is that production from Aphrodite will never begin. Even if it does, no-one in Europe will buy the gas, because of cheaper supplies from elsewhere and the continued growth of renewable technologies, along with improvements in energy conservation and insulation.

Meanwhile, a huge proportion of the Republic of Cyprus’s 9,251 km2 would be eminently suitable for solar and wind power production. 

Much land in Cyprus stands barren and empty all the time, potently ready for solar panels and wind turbines.

On agricultural land,  crops could be grown around wind turbines and mobile photovoltaic panels could be spread across fields outside the rapid growing season.

None of Cyprus’s delicious fruit and vegetables need be lost to the country’s potential revolution in sustainabilty.

Cyprus homes and other buildings could play a big role too. The laws in Cyprus mandating solar water heating panels on rooftops have already shown how easy it would be to install photovoltaic panels up top. What an opportunity.

Offshore Cyprus has greater potential still. Offshore wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger and can produce vast amounts of electricity.

Cyprus has a vast unexploited offshore economic zone ripe and ready for windpower development.

When the happy day comes that the island of Cyprus is reunited, the offshore potential will be even greater, but already there is scope for offshore windfarms to produce much more power than Cyprus needs.Mostly, offshore windfarms stand securely on their own sturdy legs, but even where the seabed is deep it will soon be possible to locate floating turbines and I am sure tidal and wave power specialists would propose Cyprus projects too, if given the chance.

Instead of which, the Cyprus government is still paying fines to the EU for excessive carbon emissions from its power stations.

Then there is the cost of oil and gas to fuel those power stations, which could be sharply lowered with a better proportion of power from renewable sources.

Electricity users in Cyprus, ie all residents, have got used to surcharges on their bills to pay for slow changes to the generation activities of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus.

So far, the Cyprus government has only tinkered with renewable energy. Its targets have been very modest and at least one of its few forays has gone badly astray.

The EAC stupidly agreed a deal to guarantee some wind energy producers 16.6 eurocents per kilowatt hour, more than four times the going rate in capacity auctions in many countries in Europe, the US and Asia in 2019.

The Cyprus government should cancel this ripoff deal immediately and stand up to any legal repercussions.

What the government should be doing is calculating Cyprus energy needs over the next, say, ten or 20 years and inviting tenders for the supply, from all comers.

Suppliers of fossils fuels could still bid, but I am certain the lowest bids would come in from companies eager to exploit Cyprus’ enormous potential CO2-free energy resources, ie sun, wind and water.

Household and industrial electricity bills could fall sharply, giving people and companies more cash to spend in Cyprus’ hard-pressed economy.

Cyprus has the fortune to be warm for much of the year, keeping heating bills lower than in most European countries.

With a low proportion of heavy industry too, renewable energy production could quite soon surpass Cyprus’ own needs, allowing for exports and making Cyprus a carbon neutral or even carbon negative country.

Bring it on!

I will aim to look at some of the facts, figures and costs in future items.